Children need affection from adults. Touch and attention is a need that is important for a child’s physical, cognitive, and social development (Carroll et al. 2013, Narvaez et al. 2016). However, parents, caretakers, and even teachers, sometimes pay inadequate attention. Neglect is considered the most prevalent and serious form of child abuse during childhood and adolescent with a lot of negative impacts on children’s development in their life (Wilkinson and Bowyer, 2017). It happens in both the global north and global south countries (Maguire & Naughton, 2016; Neglect, n.d.).

Whereas other types of abuse are violent acts, neglect refers to parents’ or caretakers’ failures to meet children’s basic needs. The World Health Oragnisation (WHO,1999) defines child neglect as cases where parents or caretakers lack adequate care for children’s development: health, education, emotional development, nutrition and safety that causes harm in children’s physical and mental health, and their social development.

According to Horwath (2007), child neglect is divided into six categories:

  • Medical: Failure to provide children with such as medical care or treatment
  • Nutritional: Not providing sufficient food with reasonable quality
  • Physical: Providing a child with inappropriate clothes
  • Emotional: Unresponsive to a child’s basic needs such as affection
  • Educational: Allowing children to stay at home without medical reports, failure to enrol a child in school
  • Lack of supervision and guidance: leaving a child alone or with an appropriate carer

Nutritional and physical neglect sometimes overlap. The former type implies insufficient foods and nutrition values to meet children’s physical or developmental needs while the latter means that children might have inappropriate or inadequate clothes, or live in poor levels of hygiene and cleanliness. Emotional neglect is understood as parents’ failure to provide children the emotional environment needed for the child’s psychological development to achieve competent adulthood (Rees, 2008). Educational neglect involves parents’ or caretakers’ omission of learning and educational needs of children which lead to learning impairment (Van Wert et al., 2018).

Most researchers believe that neglect is more invisible and has more serious consequences for children’s cognitive and intellectual development than physical neglect because they are chronic rather than episodic. Emotionally and educationally neglected children may think what they are experiencing is a normal way of life and therefore do not have the needs to seek help or confide to anyone (Cross-Tower, 2003). In other words, neglect is a type of abuse that is quiet and often overlooked by adults.

Cross cultural perspectives

Read and discuss:

  • Read this article on Cultural Competence (page 10)
  • Read the following excerpt from the paper, Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, about cultural perspectives of African and Western parents on neglect (pages 43-46)..
  • What role might teacher/institutional bias play in identifying and handling suspected cases of neglect?

Children with disabilities

According to NSW Government (n.d.), specific characteristics of a child can be associated with a high risk of neglect (see figure below). Along the same line, Scott (2014) stated that children with disabilities can be at a higher rate of neglect rather than those without disabilities. When suspecting that neglect goes along with the disabilities a child has, teachers should focus on not only the students’ difficulty but also their emotions and emotional behaviours in and outside of the classroom.

This section of the chapter will discuss neglect, risk factors of neglect, consequences of neglect and possible teaching strategies for dealing with neglected children in inclusive settings.

Impact of neglect

Knowing the impact of neglect helps teachers recognize affected children. As with many developmental issues, early detection is crucial for a timely intervention before the problem becomes too hard or costly to fix.

The effects of neglect on a child can vary from mild to severe in different dimensions including health, education, identity, social-emotional, behavioural development, and self-care skills (Wilkinson et al., 2017). The authors indicated that the impact of neglect on children’s development depends on individual children. Some children are more or less resilient than other peers. Therefore, it is important that teachers observe carefully the behaviours, social skills, etc. of their students as individuals. Furthermore, Scott (2014) suggested that, as neglect often occurs with other forms of abuse, the negative effects of neglect cannot be examined in isolation.

In their guide to deal with neglect, Kent County Council (n.d.) identified five groups of impacts on children’s development in which the following are the most observable in the school environment:


Negative impacts on learning abilities:

  • Language delay
  • Lack of exploration
  • Impoverished play and imagination
  • Later educational failure

Negative impacts on the development of social-emotional skills:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Disturbed self-regulation
  • Transmission of relationship problems to significant others for example; peers, teachers, substitute carers, professionals



Are there any students  from your teaching practice and/or your other work with children that you think may have experienced  neglectful abuse?   What behaviours did you see/notice?


Watch the videos in the links below, then take notes and identify possible risk factor(s) which may provide reasons for neglect


Imagine that you are the teacher and you encounter a child who is emotionally neglected. What can you do to help the child?


With your peer, do a role play where a teacher tries to talk to a student he/she thinks is neglected to help him/her.


Come up with five questions you might need the answer to in order to determine whether the student is neglected.

Supporting students and families in inclusive classrooms

Providing a safe learning environment and scaffolding students to maximize their learning abilities are among the most important tasks of a classroom teacher. It is acknowledged that neglected children will get troubles in identifying themselves, expressing their emotions, and communication with teachers and peers (Kent County Council, n.d.). To help neglected children and all young children deal with the mentioned difficulties, some teaching strategies will be proposed in this section.

Developing emotional literacy

Children who are neglected often get troubles with managing and expressing their own emotions. Providing social-emotional learning that integrates into the academic curriculum will build emotional literacy for the children, particularly neglected children as they do not get proper care from their parents or caregivers. In primary schools, teachers will teach students a strategic cognitive relational vocabulary for understanding the world and daily problem solving (Elias, 2017). The author suggested some approaches applied for your future class such as building feeling vocabulary, using key cognitive word pairs (is/is not, same/different), exploring same and different, picture naming and rhyming, using alliteration. Based on the author’s suggestions, here are some classroom activities which you might keep in mind for your future class.


Play or adapt your own version of the Heads Up Emotions game with your students.

  • Exploring Emotions  Guessing Game
  • Children can play the game in pairs and either mimic the emotion on the cards or put the cards on a headband for the other student to guess.
  • This game can also be played as a whole class or just with the teacher and a student.
Fostering self-esteem

Cunningham (n.d.) stated that children having self-esteem can positively value themselves and their abilities. To improve the self-esteem and learning abilities of students, particularly of neglected children, teaching self-esteem is and how it works is very important. One way to build and maintain a child’s self-esteem is to use praise in ways that nurture self-esteem (Cunninghan, n.d.). According to Morin (n.d.), self-esteem is a result of striving and achieving a worthy goal, therefore, teachers’ praise should be specific and connect with the goal of the task which a child works.


  1. Watch this video of a teacher working with a student on self-regulation
  2. Design a mini-lesson, role-play, song or rhyme to help teach young students about these strategies.


Read the following article and think about how you might implement some of these ideas in your class:


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