Child Neglect

  • Arthur H. Green


Neglect is by far the most common form of maltreatment. The reported cases of neglect outnumbered those of physical abuse by 11 to 1 in New York City in 1987. Despite the fact that neglect is so much more prevalent than physical abuse in our country, it has received much less attention from child care professionals, child psychiatrists and psychologists, researchers, and social agencies. Neglect is often less obvious and less dramatic than physical or sexual abuse, and it is more difficult to measure and define. According to the New York State Child Protective Services Act of 1973, neglect is legally defined as the failure of the parent or guardian to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and supervision (see section on legal issues). In many cases, neglect appears to be unintentional and closely associated with substandard living conditions in impoverished inner-city slum areas. Polansky, Hally, and Polansky (1975) defined child neglect as “a condition in which a care-taker responsible for the child either deliberately or by extraordinary inattentiveness permits the child to experience avoidable present suffering and/or fails to provide one or more of the ingredients generally deemed essential for developing a person’s physical, intellectual, and emotional capacities.” In broader terms, neglect might refer to the failure to provide the child with adequate parenting to ensure the realization of his potential for normal physical and psychological growth and development. Neglectful practices might include inadequate parenting, interruption of maternal care, affective and social deprivation, inappropriate or premature expectations of the child, parental detachment, indifference, overstimulation, and failure to anticipate or respond to the child’s needs at specific changes of development (Green, 1980). Neglect frequently involves “sins of omission,” while abuse entails “sins of commission.” It is clear that neglect, more than physical abuse, is subject to wide interpretation and is more influenced by community standards of child care.


Child Abuse Physical Abuse Maternal Care Intellectual Functioning Fetal Alcohol Syndrome 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur H. Green
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryColumbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia Presbyterian Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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