Parental neglect: causes, types and consequences

When we think of violence we always think of physical violence, but there are much more subtle ways of exerting it, sometimes even unconsciously.

This is the case with parental neglect. Let’s see what this concept consists of and what variations can be observed.

    What is parental neglect

    Parental or child neglect is a form of abuse by parents (or guardians) towards their children due to a lack of care in their basic needs, or poor management of them. To be considered as such, it must occur continuously over time. In other words, we could not speak of parental neglect when an isolated episode occurs, unless it is of considerable seriousness.

    Our society has made great strides in eradicating violence in child rearing, but much remains to be done in terms of parental neglect, which is said to be one of the biggest child protection issues, and this is where there is a lot of ignorance. the magnitude of their consequences.

    Children are absolutely dependent on their guardians, And have a series of needs at different levels, both physiological and psychological and social, and must cover appropriately, always corresponding to each stage of development, allowing the child to develop normally and without any deficiency.

    A negligent parent would be characterized by one or more of these behaviors:

    • She is unable to detect the needs of her child.
    • He considers his own needs to be more important than those of the child.
    • This is wrong in what he considers to be the real needs of the child.

    Of course, parental neglect this can lead to a number of consequences which can extend even into your adult lifeSo this is not a minor problem, but a question to be cut to avoid the repercussions that affect this person in the medium or long term and which require, for example, a deep psychological therapy to be resolved. Later, we will delve into some of the possible sequelae that can be experienced.

    Causes of parental neglect

    Parental neglect can be caused by a number of very different factors, related to the parents or guardians of minors. Let’s look at a classification of them.

    1. Outbuildings

    In cases where the parent or both maintain continued use of toxic substances, whether alcohol or drugs, this is a high indicator of a potential case of parental neglect.

    It happens even before the baby is born, during pregnancy, Harmful substances that the mother can consume would pass into the bloodstream and from there to the fetus, which can cause irreversible damage.

    Once born, the lack of care would continue as his parents were disabled much of the time due to his intoxicated state, making it impossible to adequately cover the child’s needs.

    2. Mental disorders

    Other times one of the parents may have a psychological condition that affects their perception of reality, For example through psychotic epidemics, or somehow see their cognitive and emotional capacity diminished.

    This would be another cause that would directly affect adults in their ability to properly care for children.

    3. Lack of parenting skills

    Sometimes there is no direct conditioning, but due to various circumstances, even because they themselves were neglected by their children as a child, some parents do not have the skills to act. as parents in a correct and careless way. Even the most basic tasks.

    In such cases, children would only benefit from care intended for simple survival, without covering any additional needs., Which are also essential for full development.

      4. Very large families

      In families at risk of exclusion who also have a large number of children, cases of parental neglect can arise because older children are sometimes required to perform adult duties related to the care of siblingsThis should obviously be the responsibility of an adult.

      In this way, older children suffer from parental neglect by not being treated as children but as adults, and young children would suffer from having their needs covered only in part, as logically the care they provide. Siblings are not the same as their parents provide.

      5. Lack of resources

      In accordance with the previous point, there are family units where financial resources are very limited and sometimes the social protection offered by the state does not meet their needs, so that adults do not have the capacity to meet their obligations to their children.

      Types of parental neglect

      The problem of parental neglect is varied, and it can be classified according to the dimension in which the deficit in coverage of needs falls. It would be a classification proposal.

      1. Physical neglect

      They would fall into this category all behaviors that hinder or interfere in one way or another with the good physical development of the child, And the range of options is very wide, starting with the child’s diet, which must be sufficient and adapted to his age and specific needs.

      It would also be the case not to provide the child with clothes adapted to each season, so that he is protected from heat and cold or bad weather. Also, do not protect it from the sun in summer with elements that cover the head of the sun, a protective cream, etc.

      Also everything related to hygiene and good sanitary control, Anxious to heal their scratches and wounds, and to attend the appropriate pediatric appointments on time for vaccinations, exams or any medical problem that needs to be resolved. In fact, it is in the medical context, as well as in school, that most cases of parental neglect are detected, that doctors find clear clues that the child is not being well cared for and the inform the competent authorities, as is their duty.

      Of course, any other absence of protective measures in each corresponding context, for example the absence of a seat and / or a seat belt when traveling by car, would be an obvious cause of physical neglect of the parents.

      2. Psychological neglect

      The psychological needs of the child must be properly taken care of. A form of neglect in this regard would be not adequately stimulating their cognitive abilities through games and activities indicated for their evolutionary stage, or even ended up being ignored.

      Likewise, depriving them of a good socialization with their peers (playing with other children) would also be an obstacle to the optimal development of their identity and their psychological functions.

      3. Educational neglect

      obviously also this would imply a manifest negligence not to provide the minor with a formal education, more this being compulsory by law and more freeSo it would also be a crime.

      Education is one of the fundamental rights of the child and its benefits are of incalculable value: the acquisition of skills and knowledge, psychological development, the learning of interpersonal skills, etc. If we deprive the child of all this, we will significantly hinder his development and subsequent transition to adulthood.


      We already know the different causes and possible types of parental neglect that we may encounter, however. just as important are the consequences that this phenomenon can trigger in children, As we had planned at the beginning.

      The consequences can range from physical problems, whether due to a poor diet, untreated disease … lack of development due to a lack of age-appropriate stimuli and education. But let’s dig deeper into the psychological consequences that paternal neglect can trigger. continued.


      affection is the emotional bond that is established between the child and the adult during parenthood. It can be of the following types:

      • Safe: the baby is able to explore the environment feeling protected by the support figure.
      • Anxious: It is difficult for them to get away from the support figure, so exploration is very limited.
      • Avoid: They don’t have a good connection to the support figure, so they can move away from it.
      • Disorganized: Combines the above two, behaves erratically and changes.

      Logically, the security condition is optimal and that all parenting guidelines should be directed, but in situations of parental neglect other types are likely to develop, especially avoidant and disorganized.

      The possible consequences that an insecure attachment can have on a child as he becomes an adult are many and varied. You may have trouble regulating your emotions, have difficulty performing social activities, be emotionally dependent on someone in a crazy way, have a negative view of yourself (low self-esteem and self-concept), have behavioral problems, etc.

      This does not mean that children of parents who demonstrate parental neglect are condemned to a life marked by these facts and to suffer from psychological disorders.As not all of them develop them and in this case they can still perform repair therapies for the condition, which work very satisfactorily, but obviously it is better to eliminate the problem before it is generated, because we have already seen the scope of the consequences and their maintenance over time.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Pérez-Muga, O. (2007). Neglect: discrimination and lack of protection for children. Psychology without borders.
      • Marvin, R., Cooper, G., Hoffman, K. (2002). The Security Circle project: intervention based on the attached file with educational days for preschool children. Affection and human development. Taylor and Francis.
      • Penya, MF (2017). Safe Links and Child Development in Vulnerable Populations. Advances in psychology. Unife.

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