Emotionally neglected children are prone to attention seeking behaviors, which often breeds behavioral problems as a means of getting attention. To an emotionally neglected child, it’s better to receive bad attention than no attention at all. Behavioral problems are also often a byproduct of the neglectful home environment. Emotionally neglected children often grow up in homes where discipline is virtually non-existent. When a child develops behavioral problems, it generally leads to negative interactions with adults, worsening the problem even further.
Another common result of poor attachment in childhood is the formation of unhealthy sexual habits and promiscuity, both in childhood or later in life. When children lack the attention they need at home, they search for it elsewhere. Emotionally neglected kids tend to be more promiscuous and engage in sex at earlier ages. Even pre-teen children will often times revert to sexual behavior as a way of getting the attention they need. (Dressing in skimpy clothes, flirting with adults, engaging in sexual conversation, exposing themselves, and of course, sexual behavior itself should the situation arise.) They’ll either find an accommodating adult or act in such a manner for the shock value, either of which brings attention.
We’re an organization built around science, not on religious rules, so it’s not the sexual behavior we’re concerned with, but why they’re engaging in it. In this case, it’s being used as a crutch. A desperate attempt to fill another void. Sexuality was only ever meant to compliment affection, not replace it. It certainly wasn’t meant to replace the security of a parent-child bond. When people use it as a replacement, it’s usually taken to unhealthy extremes. It’s essentially used like a drug, and children partake in it recklessly and dangerously. The type of affection they end up drawing is often overtly abusive. People who are using them. These are the types of kids you see on talk shows, who at 11- or 12-years of age brag about sleeping with a dozen different guys a month (adolescents or men). When sexual behavior is used as a crutch like this, it feeds a downward spiral where a child’s self-worth becomes affixed to their sexuality. Each time they feed it, they cheapen themselves further. In addition to the physical dangers of such reckless promiscuity, they’ll find themselves in a psychological hell.
“We all hear about ‘quality time’ but what about the
quantity of it? It seems like children are getting less infant
and pre-k contact with parents, less talking, less touching
and caressing. The evidence is that the less maternal time
early on, the more problems later on.”
-Eric Jensen (2006, p. 107)
Affection is so important to children that it doesn’t take much of a detriment in this area to start causing problems. There are many scary trends as of late, considering the research documenting how important plenty of loving, affectionate adult-child interaction is. In addition to emotional neglect on account of parent disinterest or inability, societal trends are worsening the picture. Children have less caregivers. More come from single parent homes. They spend more time watching television or playing video games. The internet with its chat rooms and cell phones with their text messages have further given to technology what was once done through human contact. Over the years we’ve been slowly whittling away at the amount of human interaction a child receives. We don’t intend to sound alarmist, but emotional neglect is an area that is starting to create whole scale detriments throughout the population.