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Neglect is a passive form of abuse in which a perpetrator is responsible to provide care for a victim who is unable to care for himself or herself, but fails to provide adequate care.

Neglect may include the failure to provide sufficient supervision, nourishment, or medical care, or the failure to fulfill other needs for which the victim is helpless to provide for himself or herself. The term is also applied when necessary care is withheld by those responsible for providing it from animals, plants, and even inanimate objects. Neglect can carry on in a child's life falling into many long-term side effects such as: physical injuries, low self-esteem, attention disorders, violent behavior, and can even cause death.[1]


There are many different types of neglect but they all have consequences whether it be physically or mentally. Neglect can affect the body physically by affecting a child's development which can lead to chronic medical problems. Children experiencing neglect often suffer from malnutrition, which causes abnormal patterns for development. When not given the proper nutrients at certain growth periods it can result in stunted growth, and inadequate bone and muscle growth. Brain functioning and information processing may also be affected by neglect. This may lead to difficulty in understanding directions, poor understanding of social relationships, or the inability to complete academic tasks without assistance.[2] Neglected children or adults can have physical injuries like fractures or severe burns that go untreated, or infections, lice or other signs of lack of care. Not being treated for health problems can lead to chronic disorders when children get older. There are many physical effects neglect can have on a person.[3]

Not only is neglect associated with physical problems; it also has an effect on a person mentally, ranging from poor peer relationships to violent behavior. Not only is behavior affected, but the way a person looks at themself, which can lead to low self-esteem and the feeling of not being wanted. Neglect is more severe in younger children when it comes to psychological consequences. Parental detachment can harm the child's development of bonding and attachment to the parents, causing the child's expectations to be the same when they get older (like an unending cycle). Too little parental availability can result in difficulties in problem solving, coping with stressful situations and social relationships. Studies of neglected children show heighten levels of depression and hopelessness, and higher incidents of suicide attempts.[4]

Legal definition

In English law, neglect is a term of art, identical to the, now deprecated, expression lack of care and different from the concept of negligence. Its sole function is to qualify a verdict returned at an inquest by finding that it was a factor that contributed to a death.[5]

Neglect may also refer to:

  • Child neglect, is a category of maltreatment related to child abuse, when the biological parent(s) or legally assigned adult(s) fail to provide for the proper physical care needs of their dependent children. The neglect of children is generally about three times more common than physical abuse and about six times more common than sexual abuse. (These numbers are available yearly from the United States Centers for Disease Control, where these statistics are compiled.)
  • Elder neglect
  • Professional negligence by health and education staff
  • Criminal negligence where the criminal law holds people at fault for their failures to act
  • Hemispatial neglect which is a neurological condition.
  • Negligence and the law which is where the civil law requires those at fault to compensate their victims

See also

  1. Child Abuse and Neglect. Long-term consequences of child Abuse and Neglect. URL accessed on 30 September 2011.
  2. Pledge, Deanna Neglect.
  3. Depanfillis, Diane Child Neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment and Intervention..
  4. Council, Panel on Research on Child Abuse and Neglect, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research (1993). Understanding child abuse and neglect, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  5. Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2006) Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. reissue, vol.9(2), "Coroners", 1035. Lack of care, neglect and self-neglect