Neglect: Not providing adequate care.
Why Neglect Happens
- Money: Parents may struggle financially, have three jobs at once or work long hours, or they may be addicted to work and therefore give their job the highest priority.
- Knowledge: Some parents don’t know what their children need. Why don’t they know? The explanation for this can be found below.
- The influences of their own childhood: We all learn how to care for our children through our own parents. Almost everyone uses their own childhood experience to raise their children. This allows people to repeat the mistakes of their parents and pass them on to the next generation. How do you know what your child needs if you didn’t get everything you needed from your parents? That lack of knowledge from your parents will be passed on to your children unless you discover what you missed and decide to do something with it.
- Personal problems: There are parents who spend so much time on their own problems that they have no energy left for their children. They may be depressed, caring for a sick relative, addicted, or sick themselves. Parents who struggle to keep their own heads above water unconsciously (or consciously) leave their own children with their problems.
The world can be a hard place for parents
When parents bring a new child into the world, they are biologically obliged to take the best possible care of that child. So the above reasons should never be seen as an excuse. It simply doesn’t work that way. But people do make mistakes and the world can be a hard place for parents. Loss, pain, health problems and other things can harm parents and prevent them from providing their children with what they need.
Not all forms of neglect are created equal and unfortunately the word ‘neglect’ is used to refer to all of them. The term ‘abuse’ is also often mentioned together with neglect, to lump the terms together. This hasty generalization ensures that there is no talk about what exactly someone missed in their youth.
Something that is very important. And I want to help you become aware of what you yourself have done and what you have not received. As you review the list below, I would like to ask you to reflect on your own childhood and if there is anything missing.
The Four Forms of Child Neglect
- Physical needs: This category describes the concrete things you need to survive and develop. The need for a healthy diet, water, a roof over your head, comfort and warmth. Since this kind of neglect is visible, it can be spotted by someone outside the family, such as a teacher, social worker or pediatrician. Such a person may decide to interfere and help the child.
- Physical pressure: Just think of a child with a house key. In this form of neglect, the parents are simply not physically present. A child who is alone has to take care of itself and thus learn how to take care of its own needs. When the child has grown up, they may feel alone and isolated or may be afraid to ask for or accept help from anyone.
- Verbal interaction: A 2019 study by d’Apice, Latham, and Von Stumm in Developmental Psychology found that children of parents who talk to them a lot were highly cognitively developed and showed little restless, aggressive, or disobedient behavior. If your parents didn’t talk to you enough in your childhood, you may now be feeling lonely, less motivated, or struggling to express your feelings.
- Emotional Neglect: Emotional neglect is exactly what it seems. A child’s emotions that have been neglected. Parents who engage in this form of neglect may be loving and caring, but they simply do not acknowledge or respond to their children’s emotions. If your emotions were ignored in your childhood, you close yourself off from those feelings and they are ultimately unreachable. Then, this neglect can lead to multiple things, such as feeling different, alone, and unhappy with your life.
Most people who look back on their childhood only see that all their physical needs have been met and thus do not understand the ways in which they could have been neglected. But ‘neglect’ is much more complicated.
Your stay-at-home mom may be home a lot and take you everywhere, but still fail to acknowledge or respond to your feelings (emotional neglect). Your father, who talks a lot, may only talk about facts and logic and still ignore your feelings. The opposite can also happen. Your parents, who are hardly at home and struggling, may provide emotional care and genuinely listen to you, making you feel understood and loved. In this case, such physical neglect can do much less damage.
Just think about this. What did you get in your youth and what was missing? Is that still missing in your life? If you have children of your own or want to one day, are you sure that you can give to your children what was missing in your childhood It is possible to understand what you did not get yourself, what your parents did not give you consciously or unconsciously, and still give that to yourself. It’s a process of giving yourself the physical and emotional support you never had. Once you’ve done this, you can do the same for others. And especially for your own children. There is nothing more important than that.