Child Neglect and Abuse

What is child neglect and abuse?

Child neglect and abuse is a form of child abuse. It is actually the most common form of child abuse and is given far less attention than child physical abuse and child sexual abuse that are generally perceived as high profile forms of child abuse.

Definition of Child Neglect and Abuse

Child neglect is difficult to define as it varies from one society to another. However, it can be defines as:

  • A serious and most frequent form of child abuse.

  • The persistent failure to provide basic physical needs of a child.
  • The failure to provide adequate supervision to safeguard the welfare of a child.
  • The persistent failures likely to result and cause harm and the impairment of the development of a child.

Child neglect typically involves the failure to provide or meet the essential needs of a child.

These needs are fundamental but can be easily neglected. Healthy development of a child starts with adequate food and nutrition, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing, personal hygiene, social interaction, supervision, and education.

The neglect of a child may occur when the parents or caregivers are physically, mentally or emotionally impaired and lack the ability to provide adequate care. Although these impairments may not be intentional, but in some cases they are especially when alcohol and drug abuse is a contributing factor.

Different types of Child Neglect and Abuse.

There are different types of child neglect and abuse. The severity of the neglect increases when a child is subjected to two or more of the following types of neglect:

  • Physical neglect

  • Medical neglect
  • Educational neglect
  • Inadequate Supervision
  • Emotional neglect

Physical Neglect of a Child

Physical Neglect includes the obvious failures of the basic necessities for a child such as:

  • Abandonment: Deserting a child without making arrangement for suitable care and supervision.
  • Expulsion: Removing a child from a home such as ‘kicking themout’ without making arrangement for suitable care and supervision.

  • Nutrition: Lack of food and nutrient can lead to poor physical growth.
  • Clothing: Inadequate and unsuitable clothing for the environmental climate. Such failure may also include poorly fitted shoes that the child has outgrown causing deformities in the feet and toes.
  • Personal hygiene: Failure to provide and maintain basic hygiene practices such as taking regular baths or showers, infrequent changing of nappies and diapers, and improper cleansing of rectum or groin area all which can lead to skin sores and rashes.
  • Other Physical Neglect: Leaving a child in a home with lack of heating, sanitation and running water.

Medical Neglect of a Child

Medical Neglect includes the failure to ensure access to medical care. It generally involves:

  • Denial of medical care: Failure to seek medical help or denying essential medical care and treatment for conditions that can cause long term physical problems or that can impairs the natural healthy development of a child.
  • Delaying medical care: Failure to seek timely and necessary medical care for health problems that can cause serious complications. This also includes preventative medical care.

Educational Neglect of a Child

Educational Neglect: Failure to ensure a child receives adequate educational needs either public or private schooling. It generally involves:

  • Permitted Truancy: Persistent absenteeism from school by allowing a child to stay at home without a valid reason. It may also include failing or taking the necessary actions to ensure a child (a known truant) regularly attends school.

  • Failure to enrol at a school: Failure to register a child at a school and without providing adequate home schooling.
  • Failure to allow special requirements: Failure to allow or refusal of specialized help or remedial actions recommended for a child with a diagnosed learning disorder or special educational needs without reasonable cause.

Inadequate Supervision of a Child

Inadequate Supervision: Failure to provide adequate supervision to protect and prevent a child from potential harm. This generally includes:

  • Lack of supervision: Failure to provide adequate supervision appropriate for a child’s age. Naturally, the level of supervision of toddlers will differ from the level required for adolescents.
  • Exposure to hazards: Exposure to hazardous objects (electrical wires or electricity), substances (such as drugs. drug paraphernalia or household cleaning items) or exposure to a hazardous environment such as insect or fecal infestation.
  • Failure to provide safety restraints: Failure to safeguard the home (such as stair guards) or play environment (such as hazardous gardens or areas with water).
  • Other forms of inadequate supervision: This may not include inadequate supervision by the parent or caregiver, but the failure to collect a child from school or babysitters without making suitable arrangement.
  • Unsuitable caregivers: Leaving a child with someone who is unable to care for a child such as someone who is unable to care for themselves; someone not to be trusted with a child such as a known child molester or those under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Emotional Neglect of a Child

Emotional Neglect: This type of neglect is difficult to detect as it doesn’t display the obvious signs of abuse. It generally involves:

  • Lack of nurturing affection: Failure to provide emotional support and encouragement.

  • Isolation: Lack of or failure to engage with a child, denying interaction with parents or peers inside and outside the home.

The lack of emotional nurturing or affection (such as hugging and kissing) may not be seen as emotional neglect in some societies, as such acts and behavior are not the norm; Yet in another, it may be seen as essential for the healthy emotional development of a child. Therefore, child neglect and abuse is perceived, by any given society, on how a parent or caregiver should or should not behave.

Child neglect is the most frequent form of child abuse yet the least recognized form as opposed to child physical abuse and child sexual abuse. However, it is important to remember that the effect of child neglect is just as detrimental as any other form of child abuse.

Return to the top of the page on Child Neglect and Abuse here.