The neglect of children can easily be expanded into a variety of different forms, many of which we’ll touch upon separately in other sections. In referring to what are thought of as traditional forms of neglect, two come to mind: physical and emotional. Physical neglect is the lack of caregivers to ensure a healthy and safe physical environment, or a failure to provide for a child’s physical needs-food, water, clothing, shelter, etc. It could be the result of disinterest, or it could be the result of a families circumstances which result in the inability to provide for their children. Emotional neglect is the failure of caregivers to provide the adequate affection, attention and attachment that any child needs. We’ll add one more to the mix, and that’s developmental neglect, or failure of adults to adequately provide for a child’s educational or developmental needs.
Before we discuss each category, there are two overall kinds of neglectful environments. The first is pervasive neglect, which generally encompasses every type of neglect to one degree or another. At the core of the problem is flat out disinterest or even contempt for the child. As a result, caregivers generally poorly care for the child in EVERY regard.
Other times, a particular type of neglect will arise individually. It’s a result of deficiencies in the parent and/or environment. For instance, emotional neglect is commonly seen among well-to-do parents, who provide their child every other thing they could need. But at the same time, they are distant or withhold affection. Many times it breaks down to simple disinterest in the child, they simply have enough resources that they figure showering them with material possessions and private tutors will make up for their lack of parental attention. Other times a parent may legitimately try, but simply don’t know how to be warm and loving. They may lack the brain chemistry to show nurturing behavior, usually as a result of deficiencies in their own childhood. Then there are those who are wonderful parents, love their children to no ends, but simply lack the resources to properly provide for them. Others may provide a physically adequate environment and show plenty of love, but lack the knowledge or know-how of child development to provide their children what they need developmentally.
Pervasive neglect is by far the most harmful. It’s the type the news stories are derived from, and the kind the most attention is focused on. But these other types of neglect can be severely damaging as well, and chances are you know numerous children who are being neglected either emotionally or developmentally. From personal experience, in any given class of 20-30 students, you’ll have 3-5 well-to-do kids who are being emotionally neglected at home, some of them severely. The good news is that neglect is easy to fix. Regardless of the type or severity, it involves adding to the child’s environment the things they are lacking. That may mean helping a family with food supplies or showering a child with love and affection, serving as a surrogate parent. The key thing to remember is that like all child abuse, it’s not an epic battle between good and evil, but a matter of providing the child what they lack.