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Neglect adversely affects a child both physically, educationally, psychologically, socially and medically.

Failure of the parent to recognise or meet their child’s needs and comply with professional advice is a common factor in many sorts of neglect. Failure to take a child for appropriate health care when required and necessary dental care is neglectful. Mental and general health issues (alcohol and substance misuse) pertaining to the parent will have an impact on their ability to provide adequate and safe care for the child.

In infancy, neglected children are often recognised by their poor physical state, failure to thrive (see case study below) and delay in achieving developmental milestones such as walking.

Older children may have behavioural problems, difficulty forming relationships and emotional problems.

A neglected child may present to the dentist with unmet dental needs and may subsequently fail repeated appointments.

Markers of neglect

The child’s needs Effects of neglect
​Nutrition ​Failure to thrive; short stature
​Warmth, clothing, shelter ​Inappropriate clothing; cold injury; sunburn
​Safe environment ​Frequent injuries e.g. burns/cuts from playing with matches/knives
Hygiene and health-care ​Ingrained dirt (finger nails); headlice; dental caries
Stimulation and education ​Developmental delay
​Affection Withdrawn or attention seeking behaviour

Case study

This growth chart shows failure to thrive, secondary to neglect. The health visitor referred the child because of poor growth. Other markers of neglect were noted. After the child goes into care, a period of catch-up growth is clearly seen.