Child neglect: definition, signs, and effects

Every single child deserves love, care, attention, and protection. However, the unfortunate truth is that many children fall victim to neglect. Child neglect is clearly defined by Federal and State laws, with some states adding a couple more definitions. All states agree that failure to provide the child with the needed food, shelter, clothing, medical care, or supervision is child neglect. Some states include failing to provide the child with the best online counseling options available to be child neglect. That said, child neglect is a rather complex topic, one that warrants further exploration. In this article, we will explain exactly what child neglect is and explore the types and signs of child neglect, as well as its effects.

What is child neglect?

To put it in simple terms, child neglect is the ongoing failure of its custodian to meet the child’s basic needs. This includes adequate supervision, allowing the child to engage in appropriate independent activities, etc. If someone leaves their child dirty or hungry, without shelter or supervision, or removes their access to healthcare, that is both neglect and child abuse.

an image of a dirty child from the back looking at the fog
Children should not have to take care of themselves. That is their custodian’s job.

Child neglect can be difficult to spot at times. Many children do not even realize that they have been neglected at first. Only when they face the need to attend online therapy for anxiety and depression do they think back on the past. This is why it is important to raise awareness of child neglect among the mass populace. However, to be able to understand child neglect, we first need to look at its various types.

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Types of neglect

There are four types of neglect:

  • Physical neglect – This involves the child’s basic needs, such as food and shelter. It also involves a lack of proper supervision or the safety of the child. Physical neglect is almost always considered to be child abuse.
  • Emotional neglect – This type of neglect is a bit more difficult to spot. It involves various emotional issues that may come from humiliating the child, ignoring the child, or intimidation and isolation. Basically, if the child does not get the proper stimulation and nurture, they are a victim of neglect.
  • Medical neglect – If a child is not provided proper health care, medical neglect occurs. This includes ignoring recommendations from the child’s doctor or refusing to follow instructions from medical professionals. Medical neglect also accounts for poor dental care.
  • Educational neglect – Every child has the right to proper education. Failure to provide them with adequate educational opportunities is also a form of child neglect.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways in which you can neglect a child. Most of the time, however, parents do not even realize that they are neglecting their child and try to solve any issues with online family counseling. While this may be a good way to solve the problem, it is always best to get to the root of the issue first. To get to the root of the issue, we need to understand what the signs of child neglect are.

Signs of child neglect

While every child is, of course, very different, and they might show the signs of neglect in their own way, there are a few common signs that you may be able to spot. They include:

  • Change in behavior
  • Poor appearance and/or hygiene
  • Housing and family issues
  • Problems with health and development
angry kid as a result of child neglect
Neglected children are much more prone to angry outbursts.

It is important to understand that neither of these signs is definite proof that the child has been neglected. However, if you notice that these signs linger for a while, you may want to investigate a bit further. If you happen to spot neglect before it has a chance to do any serious harm, you may be able to avoid sending the child to an online CBT treatment course, which is what usually happens after neglect has the time to take root. Now, let’s see about the neglect signs in a bit more detail.

Behavioral signs

There are many different behavioral signs that may indicate child neglect. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Speech disorders
  • Eating issues
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Phobias
  • Social withdrawal
  • Hyperactivity
  • Withdrawal to touch
  • Fear of exams
  • Fear of their parents
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • PTSD symptoms
  • Becoming aggressive
  • Missing school
  • Becoming clingy
  • Having a hard time concentrating

As you can see, it can be really difficult to attribute any of these symptoms to child neglect. The fact of the matter is that there are many things that may lead to similar behavior other than neglect. Before you think of sending the child to one of the best online DBT therapy programs, you might want to be certain that it is neglect that is the culprit. To do that, you will want to take note of the other signs, as well.

a couple in a therapist's office and a woman crying
The therapy itself can be very daunting.

Symptomatic signs

Symptomatic signs are much easier to notice than behavioral ones. Here are some of the most common symptomatic signs of child neglect:

  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Abnormal weight gain/loss
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal respiration
  • Irritability
  • Genital discomfort
  • Reluctance to use a certain extremity
  • Acute abdominal pain
  • Frequent, unexplained, sore throat

If you happen to spot any of these symptoms alongside behavioral ones, you may want to seriously consider that the child is a victim of neglect. That being said, there’s always a chance that they are simply going through one of the various stages of grief. That is why before you make the final decision, you may want to consider the last type of neglect.

Physical signs

Most of the time, you will be able to notice if a child is neglected simply by looking at them. Physical signs of neglect are quite varied and may include:

  • Lacerations
  • Poor hygiene
  • Dislocations
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Facial injuries
  • Traumatic hair loss
  • Bites
  • Malnutrition
  • Bruising
  • Injuries on forearms
  • Burns
arm with burn marks
Burns often indicate child abuse and neglect.

Now, we’ve all had a burn or two in our days as a child. However, if you notice that the physical signs are common and frequent, it may be time to act. This is especially true if you happen to notice any of the other signs of child neglect.

What to do when a child reveals neglect?

Many children who are being neglected do not realize what is happening to them. However, some children may realize that they are being neglected and may choose to stand out for themselves. If any child is brave enough to talk to you about their neglect, it is very important to listen carefully to what they are saying. In that situation, the first words that need to come out of your mouth are, “You have done the right thing by telling this to me.” After that, let the child know that it is definitely not their fault and that you will take everything they say very seriously. Under no circumstances do you confront the person who has allegedly been neglecting the child.

Try to explain carefully to the child what you will do next and that you will help them get out of the dangerous situation. After that, proceed to report everything that the child has told you to the proper authorities.

There are also situations where the child is so frightened that they simply cannot communicate properly. If that happens to be the case, one of the best solutions is to enroll them in one of the best online art therapy programs. Art will allow the child to express themselves more easily without needing to say a thing.

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Effects of child neglect

Child neglect can have serious consequences, both short and long-term. For example, a neglected child may have significant problems with brain development and might start taking large risks (running away from home, breaking the law, abusing substances, etc.), get into dangerous relationships, and similar. They may also develop one of the different types of depression as a result of being neglected.

Furthermore, a neglected child will usually have considerable difficulties forming meaningful relationships throughout their life. They can also have problems raising their own children. Of course, child neglect can lead to all sorts of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.

Long-term consequences

In most cases, child neglect leads to serious mental health issues. This is due to the fact that physical abuse is easy to spot, and most people will react strongly to a kid being physically abused. Mental issues, however, are much more difficult to spot and rectify. The neglected child may not have the tools they need to cope with all the stress and develop the necessary life skills. This, in turn, may translate to them developing suicidal tendencies, turn them to substance abuse, or similar issues.

person working on a tablet
A neglected child might have difficulties learning essential life skills.

The most problematic issue is that many of the neglected children will start to show the same behavior that they were exposed to when they get older. This continues the vicious circle of child neglect and child abuse.

What may lead to child neglect?

There are many situations that may lead to a child being neglected. However, the most common situations usually involve:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Living in poverty
  • History of abuse
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lack of support
  • Drugs or alcohol

Let’s now take a look at each potential cause.

Domestic abuse

Children living inside a home that features domestic abuse are much more likely to experience neglect. This is due to the fact that people who are being abusive usually care very little for the needs of their children.

Mental health issues

When a parent has a mental health issue, it can be very difficult to provide their child with the love, care, and support that they need. Of course, not every parent who has mental health issues is going to neglect their child, but it does make it more likely.

Living in poverty

When you live in poverty, it can be exceptionally hard to find the energy required to properly take care of a child. Poverty brings an undue amount of stress to one living in it and can lead to child neglect all on its own.

person sleeping outside
Poverty is one of the most common causes of child neglect.

History of abuse

The truth of the matter is that people who have experienced abuse are more likely to abuse or neglect their children. It is a vicious circle, one that needs to be stopped at any cost. One of the best solutions to the problem is to help people who have been abused in the past by helping them find affordable online counseling. All it takes is the willingness to improve; the solutions are readily available.

Learning disabilities

If a parent has a learning disability, they may find it difficult to realize what they need to do for their child. Of course, not every parent that has such a disability is incapable of taking care of their child. However, the fact remains that people with learning disabilities are, on average, more prone to neglecting their children due to their not understanding what they need to do.

Lack of support

Everyone needs support from time to time. When that support is lacking, it may lead to child neglect. Parents who simply can’t deal with their own issues on their own might start neglecting their children.

Drugs or alcohol

Drugs and/or alcohol are, by far, the most common causes of child neglect. When parents abuse intoxicating substances, caring for their child usually becomes a secondary, even tertiary, concern. We’ve all heard stories of a drunk dad or mom and how that affected the family life, after all.

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Child neglect may be a serious issue, but it is not one that cannot be rectified. There are numerous therapy options available and all it takes is the willingness to get better. If you are looking for the best online therapy options, all you need to do is browse and explore the Consumer Opinion Guide. We will help you find the best therapy options, connect you to the best therapy professionals, and inform you about all of the possible options!

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