Emotional Neglect


Neglect is the most neglected form of child abuse. Mandated reporters of neglect are taught to look for the obvious signs, as noted at www.childwelfare.gov.

Signs of Neglect

Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:

•  Is frequently absent from school
•  Begs or steals food or money
•  Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
•  Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
•  Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
•  Abuses alcohol or other drugs
•  States that there is no one at home to provide care

Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:

•  Appears to be indifferent to the child
•  Seems apathetic or depressed
•  Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
•  Is abusing alcohol or other drugs

The bad news is that there are plenty of children who are victims of neglect and emotional abuse that do not display the above symptoms. Often, parents function well enough outside of the home to appear to be good caregivers. This dynamic can be both confusing and crazy-making to a child, and a precursor to self-blame.

Emotional neglect exacerbates abuse. It also sets up a foundation for continued abuse to occur. If a child has no comparison to being treated with respect, that child will be more likely to become victimized. That child will be less capable of trusting adults, and will be more likely to keep abuse a secret. Without a trustworthy adult to process the experience of neglect and abuse, or to provide a comparison for the child, that child is the most likely candidate to develop aftereffects of neglect and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as an adult.

    To purchase Lori Bennett's book, Dynamic Psychotherapy with Adult Survivors: Living Past Neglect, please visit: Amazon.com. You can also contact her directly here.

To find out if you might resonate with Lori's work on emotional neglect, please review her History of Parental Neglect Questionnaire by clicking here.