How Severe Can Child Neglect Really Be?

How Severe Can Child Neglect Really Be?

We have known for some time now that the majority of our brain development occurs within the first few years of life. What many people don’t know, however, is just how detrimental neglect can be on a child’s overall brain development.

Some research suggests that during this phase, neglect can lead to an increase in both addictive and violent tendencies, a decrease in overall intelligence, and even a lack in the ability to empathize with others.

Failure to thrive, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), impairment in social skills and various conduct disorders are just a few of the many other long-term effects neglect can have on children. Countless efforts have been made to help parents understand the severity of neglect, but even still most of us have a very limited understanding.

All our time spent with our children is important, but nothing compares to the first few years of life.

Some neonatal intensive care units have even implemented programs for volunteers to come and simply hold babies because of the enormous impact skin to skin contact has on overall brain development.

There are an infinite amount of barriers that tend to get in the way of parenting and focusing on our children, but nothing can be as important as ensuring the health and wellness of our children.

Being neglectful can disguise itself in many ways:

  • A parent’s need for decompression at the end of a long day
  • A television or electronic device left to entertain a child
  • Exhaustion
  • Having “too much” to do
  • Work commitments

At times, our best efforts to provide a healthy environment for our children can lead to the very thing we hope to prevent. Finding the balance to these strains is imperative to not only the health of ourselves, but to that of our children as well. Intentional time must be carved out to focus on the delicate lives we have born. Positive attention, physical touch, basic provision and a significant amount of our time and attention are among the keys to promoting healthy brain development.

Nick Hersey, LAMFT, LAPC
nhersey @

Photo Credit: Public Domain

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