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Exploring Assumtions about Child Neglect in Relation to the Broader Field of Child Maltreatment

Author: KAREN POLONKO
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 29 No. 3

Research on child neglect is reviewed as it relates to common
assumptions in the field, the broader context of research on child
maltreatment and trends within the larger society. Overall, while child
neglect is the type of maltreatment most frequently reported to and
acted on by official agencies, its proportion of all maltreatment in the
general population is comparatively smaller. The issue of "neglect of
neglect" is placed within the larger framework of the low priority of
research on child maltreatment in general. While research shows that
all forms of child maltreatment are associated with devastating
consequences for children, child physical neglect has the most
profound effects on cognitive functioning and academic achievement,
while child physical abuse has the most serious effects on aggression
and subsequent violent behavior. Child emotional neglect, sexual and
physical abuse have similarly grave effects on psychopathology, in
contrast to child physical neglect which is associated with the least
adverse consequences. These findings are discussed within the
framework of research on the neurodevelopmental effects of child
abuse and neglect. Research on the causes of child neglect, in particular
as they relate to the perpetrators, points to a distressing "cycle of
neglect." Finally, suggestions for breaking this cycle and keeping our
children safe are discussed.

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