Child Neglect

Child neglect is defined as a type of maltreatment related to the failure to provide needed, age-appropriate care. Unlike physical and sexual abuse, neglect is usually typified by an ongoing pattern of inadequate care and is readily observed by individuals in close contact with the child. Once children are in school, personnel often notice indicators of child neglect such as poor hygiene, poor weight gain, inadequate medical care, or frequent absences from school. Professionals have defined four types of neglect: physical, emotional, educational, and medical.

More children suffer from neglect in the United States than from physical and sexual abuse combined. During 2005, 62.8 percent of victims experienced neglect, 16.6 percent were physically abused, 9.3 percent were sexually abused, 7.1 percent were emotionally or psychologically maltreated, and 2.0 percent were medically neglected. In addition, 14.3 percent of victims experienced such "other" types of maltreatment as abandonment, threats of harm to the child, and congenital drug addiction. States may code any maltreatment type that does not fall into one of the main categories—physical abuse, neglect, medical neglect, sexual abuse, and psychological or emotional maltreatment—as "other."

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In spite of this, neglect has received significantly less attention than physical and sexual abuse by practitioners, researchers, and the media. One explanation may be that neglect is so difficult to identify. Neglect often is an act of omission. But neglecting children's needs can be just as injurious as striking out at them.

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For 2003, 47.3 percent of child victims were boys, and 50.7 percent of the victims were girls. The youngest children had the highest rate of victimization. The rate of child victimization of the age group of birth to 3 years was 16.5 per 1,000 children. The victimization rate of children in the age group of 4-7 years was 13.5 per 1,000 children. Nearly three-quarters of child victims (73.1 percent) ages birth to 3 years were neglected compared with 52.7 percent of victims ages 16 years and older.

Child Neglect. Last reviewed 03/13/2008