What is Child Neglect?

Child neglect is a form of child maltreatment,[1] a deficit in meeting a child’s basic needs including the failure to provide basic physical, health care, supervision, nutrition, emotional, education and/or safe housing needs. Society generally believes there are necessary behaviors a caregiver must provide a child in order for the child to develop physically, socially, and emotionally. Causes of neglect may be from any of several parenting problems include mental health, substance use, domestic violence, unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, single parenting, and poverty.

Child neglect depends on how a child and society perceives the parents’ behavior; it is not how the parent believes they are behaving towards their child (Barnett et al., p. 84). Parental failure to provide when options are available is different from failure to provide when options are not available. Poverty is often an issue and leads parents to not being able to provide. The circumstances and intentionality must be examined before defining behavior as neglectful.

Child neglect is the most frequent type of abuse of children, with children that are born to young mothers at a substantial risk for neglect. In 2008, the U.S. state and local child protective services received 3.3 million reports of children being abused or neglected. Seventy-one percent of the children were classified as victims of child neglect (“Child Abuse & Neglect”). Maltreated children/youth were about five times more likely to have a first emergency department presentation for suicide related behavior compared to their peers, in both boys and girls. Children/youth permanently removed from their parental home because of substantiated child maltreatment are at an increased risk of a first presentation to the emergency department for suicide-related behavior.[2] Neglected children are at risk of developing lifelong social, emotional and health problems, particularly if neglected before the age of two years.

Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect