What is Child Neglect?

Child neglect is the most common form of child abuse1. It occurs when the basic needs of a child go unmet and the child experiences harm as a result1. Basic needs or rights of children include adequate food, clothing, education, health care, nurturing and emotional support, and housing1.

There are four major types of neglect:

  • Physical Neglect occurs when a child’s need for adequate food, clothing, supervision, housing, or protection from the environment is not adequately met1.

  • Emotional Neglect occurs when a child does not receive sufficient emotional support, care, or affection1.

  • Medical Neglect occurs when a child does not receive appropriate medical, mental, or dental health services1.

  • Educational Neglect occurs when a school age child does not receive appropriate educational services, including special education services if needed1.


Consequences and implications

Research has proven that neglect can harm a child’s physical and mental health in addition to their social and cognitive development1. The mental consequences of child neglect include poor self-esteem, depression, and substance abuse, to name a few1. Neglected children are at increased risk of poor academic achievement and juvenile delinquency1. Child neglect is an economic burden as well. Child Neglect costs our nation 220 million dollars each day2.

How to Identify Child Neglect

There are several physical and behavioral indicators of child neglect. These indicators are typically apart of an ongoing pattern.

Physical Indicators

  • Obvious lack of medical attention3.

  • Being left alone at an inappropriate age or left with individuals unable to supervise3.

  • Poor hygiene3.

  • Inappropriate clothing or clothing that does not fit well3.

  • Unexplained injuries3.


Behavioral Indicators

  • Frequent tardiness and absence from school3.

  • Attempts to hide injuries3.

  • Trouble sitting or walking3.

  • Fear of parent(s) or caregiver(s)3.


  1. Prevent Child Abuse America. Preventing Child Neglect | Prevent Child Abuse America. Retrieved from

  2. Prevent Child Abuse America. The Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved from

  3. D.C. Child and Family Services. Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved from