Child Neglect Literature Review Abstract

ChildNeglect Literature Review


Severaldefinitions of neglect have been proposed, with the most commonemphasizing that the children’s basic development needs are fullymet, or they are simply omitted by those responsible for their wellbeing. On the other hand, abuse is associated with acts of commissionresulting to the infliction of harm on the child. As such neglect iscategorized into physical, emotional neglect, supervisory, medicalneglect by care giver, and educational neglect. Notably, neglect isthe most common form of and the fastest growing category, ofmaltreatment across various states including the US, Canada, andUnited Kingdom. Neglectful parenting is mostly associated withpoverty, and often occurs where there are large members of childrenbeing looked after by young and single mothers with little socialsupport. As if to worsen the situation, substance abuse, mentalhealth issues, and the presence of domestic violence will often addto already limited parenting capacity making the situation evenworse. Neglect has advance effects on the children, as they arelikely to develop low self-esteem, they get depressed, they aresocially withdrawn, and helpless.

Thefocus of this literature review is mainly on child neglect. Thereview is based on library search of search engines EBSCO, CSA, Gale,Informit, and Ingenta amongst others aiding in accessing of peerreviewed scientific journal articles touching on the issue of childneglect. In addition, the review utilizes government reports from theNational Center for Child Abuse and Neglect, and Google scholarsearches of scholarly journals with the term neglect, and acombination of child abuse and neglect on the search engine. Anobservation occurring in the different literatures is a child’sphysical, sexual and emotional abuses are traditionally defined inrelation to the harm they inflict on the child. On the other handneglect is defined by that which is not happening to the child ratherthan what is happening. According to the US Department of Health andHuman Services (USDHHS) Straus and Kantor (2005), the common andbroad element is that children needs are not met due to omissionsfrom the part of those responsible for the child.

GeneralDescription of the Problem

Accordingto Evans (2002) children maltreatment has be among the leading causesfor childhood serious injuries and fatalities. The police force hasplayed a major role in preventing and responding incidences of childabuse and neglect across the United States. The most generalstructures of child neglect in occurrence are physical abuse thatranges from the very minor to the extremes of bruising to death wehave sexual abuse that involves different degrees of coercion andviolence. Thirdly, neglect which is quite extensive ranging from afailure of feed children, to cloth them, or even deny children aright to shelter, also, neglect covers the failure to provide medicalcare, schooling, and supervision to children, with the end result ofwhatever form of neglect be that of exposing a child to hazardousconditions such as crime.

Doesthe child have to be harmed for neglect to occur?

This query poses the question of how neglect should be defined,should the definition be based on the adult’s behavior or thepossible outcome on the child. It should be noted that within anarrow definition, the action behavior of the caregivers has to mountspecific physical harm or identifiable symptoms of emotional harm assuch, the behavior would be considered neglectful. Coohey (2002)argues that the definite damage has to have taken place, or thatexpansion must be impaired. On the other hand, Straus and Kantor(2005) argue that focus should be laid on the actions of thecaregivers, and not the consequences of the neglectful behavior ortheir culpability. An example is developed, children left alone for24 hours and they manage to look after themselves with no harmtranspiring to them, however, the behavior of the parent is stillneglectful. The second example is that of children left alone for 10minutes and they are injured in this short time. Both these acts areneglectful, however, if defined on the basis of harm, the second actis neglectful and considered more extreme, in terms of parentalaction, the former is neglectful.

Isthis Harm Intended?

Connell-Carrick(2003) argues that if neglect were defined in terms of the harminflicted to the child, then there would be no farther need to have asubjective interpretation of parental intention. Nevertheless, thesame act and same harm on the child may be viewed or judgeddifferently depending on the intended on how intentions of theparents are perceived. There are particular instances where theparents are in a position to provide basic demands for their kidschildren despite having good intentions for them such instances arecommon where poverty prevails. In other instances a lack of knowledgeto provide a nutritious diet, or simple the lack of understanding ofthe child’s development allowing the child to engage inunsupervised play in hazardous situations. As such, social workersare less likely to report parents who appear not to have the capacityto offer adequate care, than those considered capable of giving theadequate care required and all together fail to do so (Coohey, 2003).Thus, neglect in this instance is examined as not meeting the child’sneeds despite the parents having the economic resources to see to itthese needs are met.

Prevalenceof Neglect

Internationaltrends of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom registerneglect as the most common form of maltreatment. In the US alone, 61%of children maltreatment victims suffer from neglect (USDHHS, 2005).The case is no different in the UK or Canada, as neglect has beenreported to be the major report in at least 42% and 40% of allmaltreatment incidences the UK and Canada respectively according tothe Department for Education and Skills (2004). In addition, neglectis the fastest growing form of maltreatment, for instance, in the UKneglect incidences tripled 1991 and 2001 in line with the feedings ofCity and Hackney (Area Child Protection Committee, 2002). Accordingto the USDHHS the situation in the US has been marked by an increasein both a neglect in emotional neglect and physical neglect, while inCanada the rates of neglect have also doubled.

Ofthe kids experiencing neglect in the US, the highest form of neglectwas physical neglect that accounted for about 43% of the overallneglect. Sullivan (2000) includes supervisory neglect in the categoryof physical neglect. Nevertheless, physical neglect may have had ahigh rating considering individuals will likely report an incident ofa malnourished kid, an unclothed, or an unsupervised kid than theywould on the one who is emotionally deprived. For the populations inthe US, 60 in every 1000 will suffer physical neglect while 20 inevery 1000 will suffer emotional neglect (Sullivan, 2000).

Coohey,(2002) is the argument that supervisory forms of neglect constitutethe largest single type of neglect under child maltreatment, withfigures 30% more than those under physical abuse. In Canadasupervisory forms of neglect counts for more than half of all casesof neglect (Evans, 2002), yet surprisingly little efforts have beenplaced in the study of supervisory forms of neglect. Still accordingto the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2004)neglect is the most common category of confirmation in the country,whereby 27% were physical abuse, 25% in forms of emotional abuses,and 13% come in form of sexual abuse.

ReducingNeglect/ Interventions

Effortsput in place over the years to aid in the reduction of child neglectaim at understanding the underlying causes to neglect. Traditionally,parents have been to blame in the parenting characteristics they haveput to use on their children (Evans 2002). Research has been lookinginto the correlates of neglect within the boarder framework of thesocial ecology. Neglect can be eliminated through the development ofa pathway or a trajectory that a particular child would have tofollow (Belsky, 1993). In developing the pathway, proximal influencesthat support efforts by parents are considered, such as, the familysituation or the parent’s mental health. These factors will eitherincrease the child’s risk or protect the child adding to theirresilience.

Ina society where only marginal support is offered to the parents andjobs are insecure or casual, and there exist negative attitudestowards single parents, then ground works are established for somegroups such as the disadvantaged single mothers helping them feelsecure rather than being alienated. Additional causes of neglect arebecause of little social support from family and friends, poorparents living in dangerous neighborhoods, which in its partsheightens their insecurity. Also, limited intelligence and educationon the part of the children’s parents, or their currentrelationships are characterized conflicts, violence and substanceabuse. These characteristics increase the likelihood of child neglectby the parents (Coohey, 2002).

Interventionsshould be geared at the systems level, the community and familylevel. Changes should be effected in the policies governing serviceprovision, for instance provide direct financial assistance tofamilies with young kids, or providing subsidized childcare forfamilies living in poverty stricken areas. At the community level,interventions should be geared at improving social capital by throughan increase of both formal and informal support such as, ensuring thecommunities can access quality childcare, quality health, andneighborhood centers (Janus and Offord, 2000). At the family level,direct support especially to the parent can provide a targetuniversal basis.

Conclusionand Further Research

Anoverview of the existing studies very much indicate that neglect isstill an area under looked extending beyond research knowledge andinvestigation. Child neglect is strongly linked to poverty, and ithas high chances of occurrence where the mother is young, singleparent with little or no social support, and even worse in instancewhere the parent is suffering mental health or is involved insubstance abuse. Despite being neglected children are not in dangerof immediate harm, nevertheless the damage lies in the long-termconsequences of the neglect.

Consideringthe high prevalence and the negative developmental outcomes likely toface the neglected children, further study needs to be carried out toaid in the understanding and provision of assistance to the neglectedkids. In instances where parents have insufficient knowledge onchildren development emotional and practical support should beprovided.


AustralianInstitute of Health and Welfare. (2004). ChildProtection 2002-2003.Canberra: Author.

Belsky,J. (1993). Etiology of child maltreatment: a developmental–ecologicalanalysis. PsychologicalBulletin,114(3),413-434.

Cityand Hackney Area Child Protection Committee (2002). ChildNeglect. Practice Guidance.UK,City andHackney Area Child Protection Committee.

Connell-Carrick,K. (2003). A critical review of the empirical literature: Identifyingcorrelates of child neglect. Childand Adolescent Social Work Journal, 20(5),389-425.

Coohey,C. (2003). Making judgments about risk in substantiated cases ofsupervisory neglect. ChildAbuse and Neglect, 27,821-840.

Departmentfor Education and Skills (DfES) (2004). Statisticsof Education: Referrals, Assessments and Children and Young Peopleon Child Protection Register, National Statistics.London: HSMO.

Evans,H. (2002). Childneglect.NSPCC: Child Protection Awareness Group. Retrieved 20th December2014 from ct_asp_ifega26016.htm.

Janus,M. &amp Offord, D. (2000). Readiness to learn at school. CanadianJournal of Policy Research, 1(2),71-75.

Straus,M.A. &amp Kantor, G.K. (2005). Definition and measurement ofneglectful behavior: some principles and guidelines. ChildAbuse and Neglect, 29,19-29.