Childhood emotional neglect: characteristics, effects and treatment

Boys and girls can be the victims of all kinds of harmful behavior, even those that were not done intentionally. We generally believe that physical and verbal abuse and abuse are the main ways of hurting children, but it can also happen that the most unconscious neglect has an effect on their well-being.

Childhood emotional neglect is the failure of parents and other caregivers to identify and meet the emotional needs of young children.. Although not usually malicious, this type of behavior has long-term consequences for the child, both personally and relational.

Understanding why this type of neglect occurs and what its main symptoms are can help prevent it, educate parents about how their children are feeling, and understand that their children’s needs are not just physiological, like eating or sleeping, but there are also emotional ones and they must be satisfied.

    What is emotional neglect of children?

    Emotional neglect of children can be described as the situation that occurs when one or both parents of a child do not adequately meet emotional needs. This type of emotional neglect stands out because it is not necessarily emotional abuse in childhood, but rather a situation which is the product of the neglect, conscious or not, of the parents vis-à-vis children. emotions of their child. Parents treat their children’s emotions as irrelevant, invalid or excessive.

    This type of emotional distraction can be seen in the kind of phrases that are often heard by victims of emotional neglect of children.

    • “You don’t really feel that way. “
    • “It wasn’t like that.”
    • “You don’t need to worry about it.”
    • “You are too sensitive.”

    We can better understand this kind of emotional neglect with the following example:

    A child tells his father that he is sad for a classmate. The father, who does not realize that the child needs emotional support because he is upset, does not understand. The adult thinks it is child’s play, instead of stopping for a moment to listen to his child and support him in whatever is necessary. As such situations reoccur, the child will begin to believe that their emotional needs are not great and will stop seeking support.

    Childhood abuse and neglect are not the same thing. Abuse is usually intentional, a deliberate choice of one person at the expense of another. While emotional neglect can be an intentional disregard of a child’s feelings, it is more often than not the result of simply not identifying the child’s emotional needs. This is why it is possible to find situations where there is emotional neglect but not in other aspects of childcare, such as diet or hygiene.

    The effects of emotional neglect on children can be very subtle, and parents may not know they are doing it. Even parents who want their kids the most can fall for this kind of dynamic.. In addition, it is difficult for pediatric professionals, such as pediatricians, teachers, or even child psychologists, to recognize this phenomenon. The more serious the case, the greater the emotional neglect of the child, the easier it is to detect and the more striking it is.

      How Does Emotional Neglect Affect Children?

      As we have said, depending on the seriousness of the case, it will be more or less easy to identify a case of emotional neglect of the child. The symptoms of this type of neglect can range from very subtle to very striking although, at first, the harm caused by this type of situation is rather silent. However, the effects will appear sooner or later and will get worse if nothing is done to prevent it. Among them we find:

      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Apathy
      • Developmental delay
      • Hyperactivity
      • Aggression
      • Low self esteem
      • Addiction
      • Social isolation
      • Insensitive or indifferent personality
      • Avoid intimacy and emotional closeness

      @image (username)

        How Does Child Neglect Affect Adults?

        Boys and girls who have experienced emotional neglect of children they often grow into adults with dysfunctional personalities and inappropriate social behavior. Because their emotional needs have not been sufficiently met or validated by their parents or other attachment figures, they end up growing into adults who are unsure of how to deal with their own emotions.

        Additionally, many mental health issues and relationship dysfunctions are associated with emotional neglect in childhood.

        • Post-traumatic stress disorder
        • Depression

        • Emotional absence
        • Increased risk of eating disorders
        • Avoid privacy
        • Feel deeply hurt
        • Feel empty
        • Little self-discipline
        • Guilt and shame
        • Anger and aggression
        • Difficulty trusting others
        • Avoid any kind of emotional dependence

        It is common for adults who have experienced emotional neglect of their children to end up replicating with their children what their parents did. That is, in these cases there is a higher risk of becoming parents who emotionally neglect their children because, as children, they have not been validated or given importance to their children. emotions, it is difficult for them to know how to listen to and understand their children’s emotional concerns.

          What makes some parents emotionally neglectful?

          There are several causes that some parents fail to properly identify or assess their children’s moods. As with child abuse, the causes of neglect are multiple and often difficult to understand. Most parents try to be the best for their children, trying to meet your needs and providing security and protection.

          Therefore, before assuming that emotional neglect of children is a consequence of abusive parenting, there are several aspects to consider that could be the cause of this neglectful behavior towards children:

          • Depression
          • Anxiety disorders
          • Autism spectrum disorder
          • Bipolar disorder
          • Suffering from a terminal illness
          • Going through a divorce
          • Losing a job
          • Dependencies
          • Resentment towards your child (for example, unwanted pregnancy)
          • Lack of personal emotional development
          • History of parental neglect
          • Lack of healthy parenting skills
          • Recent duel
          • Being mistreated (for example, partner, family member, etc.)
          • Tiring occupation
          • Economic concerns

          Many neglectful parents come from families where they themselves were emotionally ignored by their parents when they were young. As a result, they may not have the parenting skills necessary to meet their children’s emotional needs. It may also happen that the child is unwanted or behaves in an infuriating manner, which causes anger and resentment in the father and ignores the child’s pleas and questions.

          It is often the case that parents who emotionally neglect their children also neglect their own emotions. Adults who do not have a strong and emotionally satisfying relationship with their partner, friends, or family are at greater risk of not being able to respond appropriately to their children’s emotional demands.

          Treatment of emotional neglect of the child

          Even if the person is an adult, it is possible to help them deal with their past by being emotionally neglected., giving him the tools to deal with emotions his parents weren’t paying attention to and teaching him to avoid committing the same kind of neglect with his own children.

          Options for dealing with the effects of emotional neglect on children include:

          pediatric therapy

          A clinical child psychologist can help children who have not been heard by their parents to emotionally learn to manage their emotions in a healthy and assertive way. If the little one has the habit of suppressing his emotions when he sees that his hung figures are not paying attention to him, it will be difficult for him to teach him to recognize and to live his emotions in a healthy way, even if it is not. not impossible.

          If the patient is already an adult, the consequences of the emotional neglect of the child will be profound, the result of years of emotional suppression. It will be more difficult for the patient to learn to manage and express the emotions that he will probably experience throughout his adult life, because these are responses to the social environment in which we find ourselves.

          Either way, the problem is that therapists and mental health professionals can help reduce and lessen the effects of emotional neglect in children by helping children and adults learn to identify, accept, and express. their emotions in a healthy way.

            Family therapy

            Since emotional neglect of children often occurs between parents and children, family therapy is essential.. The main component of this type of neglect is the quality of the relationship between parents and children who, without adults needing to be bad parents or abusers, have the problem that emotions are not properly recognized or managed. .

            This is why the job of the family therapist will be to help parents understand the impact they have on not paying enough attention to the emotional well-being of their children, even if they do not. did not do it with bad intentions or care. In addition, this therapist can help the child learn to deal with any problems he may be facing. The earlier the intervention in the family, the less the effects of emotional neglect on the child and the better the relationships between its members.


              Emotional neglect in childhood, even unintentional or intentional, can damage a child’s emotional health and self-esteem. Ignoring how the little one is feeling or minimizing their emotional distress can lead the child to internalize the idea that their emotions are not important. and that expressing them is not worth it. The consequences can be very profound and manifest over a lifetime, causing psychological wounds that are difficult to heal without the help of psychotherapy.

              Boys and girls have emotional needs that are as great as they are physiological. They need to feel listened to and valued by their parents, regardless of their age. Learning to manage your emotions and listen to the emotions of others is something that should be part of the education of every family and passed down from generation to generation. Children who have been heard by their parents will be adults who will listen to their own children.

              Treating the effects of emotional neglect in children can help toddlers deal with their emotions, understand they deserve to be heard, and overcome feelings of emptiness. On the other hand, it also serves to teach parents to behave better with their children and to value what they feel, understanding that even if there is no abuse or abuse, neglect emotional can be very painful for the little ones.

              Bibliographical references

              • Asbestos F, et al. (2018). Emotional abuse and child neglect in obese patients with and without binge eating disorder: Personality and psychopathology are correlated in adulthood. DOI: 10.1016 / j.psychres.2018.08.089
              • Grossman FK, et al. (2017). Treatment of adult survivors of emotional abuse and child neglect: a new framework. DOI: 10.1037 / ort0000264
              • Rnic K, et al. (2018). Emotional abuse, physical abuse, and child neglect are associated with the theory of correct mind decoding in young adults with depression. DOI: 10.1016 / j.psychres.2018.07.045
              • Wright MO, et al. (2009). Psychological violence against children and subsequent psychological violence among students: the mediating role of maladaptive schemas. DOI: 10.1016 / j.chiabu.2008.12.007

              Leave a Comment