What is child neglect? Neglect is the most widespread form of child abuse in the United States. It includes any careless actions that prevent a child from living a happy, healthy life. Most child neglect stories deal with physical neglect, in which case the child is not given the basic requirements for life, such as food, clothing, shelter and/or supervision. He or she may suffer from grave illnesses or physical harm—such as cuts, bruises, or other injuries—and may fail to thrive in the home environment.
Another form of neglect is educational neglect. When a parent refuses to enroll a child of appropriate age in school or to provide him with adequate homeschooling, it will prevent the child from acquiring the educational or basic life skills required for a successful transition to adulthood. This form of neglect can present a serious danger to the child’s emotional wellbeing, to his or her physical health, or to his or her psychological growth and development, especially if the child has special needs.
Continued spousal abuse in the child’s presence, permitting a child to use drugs or alcohol, declining psychological care to a child, withholding affection, or constantly belittling the child are all signs of emotional and psychological neglect.
The last form is medical neglect, which is the failure of a parent to provide proper health care for a child. Medical neglect can place a child in danger of being incapacitated or even of dying. It includes refusing medical care during crisis situations or severe illness, or failing to give medication for chronic disease or disability. Medical neglect can result in poor general health and compounded health problems. Some disorders, such as Münchausen syndrome by proxy, in which parents deliberately make a child ill so that the parent receives attention from others or from the child, result in medical neglect.
Children who are neglected may also experience other forms of abuse, emotional or physical.