Medical Care, a Safety Issue
Lack of proper medical care is first and foremost a safety concern. Inadequate health care can aggravate problems and potentially have life-death consequences. But once again, the more common concerns are the side-effects. Failure to properly treat certain conditions means increased pain for the child, which can potentially start this accumulative chain reaction where a medical condition becomes a source of elevated stress and anxiety, leading to depression, problems in school, conflict with adults, and a whole bunch of other undesirable things. If a child misses too much school because of an improperly treated condition, it can set them back academically, which of course has its own set of domino-like outcomes. A common condition such as the lack of proper dental care can cause teeth to rot or grow crooked, which can potentially cause a child a lot of grief and lost self-esteem when they’re older and physical appearances become much more important. It’s these types of things that most commonly cause adverse outcomes.
Social Pain & Material Needs
Finally, a lack of clothing, proper hygiene, or other material items generally won’t pose any threat to a child by itself, but such detriments can cause some significant social pain. A child who goes to school in tattered clothes or poorly groomed may suffer some serious teasing and ridicule at the hands of their peers, which in itself can rival the hurt and harm from any traditional forms of abuse. Such children also face prejudice from teachers and other adults, making the situation even worse. Lacking what the other kids have can cause its own psychological problems even without taunting, though this is relative and dependant upon the situation. Children are resourceful, and can manage just fine with very little. We’re not trying to pick on poor people or indicate that children need material possessions in order to be happy. In fact, the best toys in life don’t cost a dime. If everyone else around them has little too, children will make do and they won’t end up feeling like an outcast because of it. It’s when a disparity exists and they are constantly reminded of being in a less adequate situation than their peers that problems arise. Such circumstances leave children with feelings of being less adequate, less capable, and less deserving.
Physically neglected children have a tendency to hoard food and other material possessions, even when times are good. We can tell you from personal experience working with such children, stealing frequently arises as a byproduct of physical neglect. Children learn to hoard all physical possessions, be it food, money, toys, or anything else. Because of this, when they end up having something in their possession (another child’s toy, for instance), it can be impulsively hard to let it go. Consistent neglect will form hypersensitive brain chemistry in this regard, and children who are neglected over long periods of time will have a hard time breaking such a habit, even after their needs become fully met. It’s a learned habit. One nine-year-old girl I worked with still struggled with stealing things-little things that she could get on her own and shouldn’t have been important to her-even after being placed in her fathers house in a much better environment. It’s important for caregivers to be patient with such behaviors, and most of all, recognize that they arise from an impulsive learned habit, and not intentional delinquency on the part of the child.