Child Neglect and its Impact

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This paper will discuss how early childhood neglect impacts one’s brain development and the ability to connect with others as adults. The paper will define child neglect and the three major types of neglect which are physical, emotional, and educational neglect. A study done in Romania shows the kids being abandoned with minimal care in overcrowded orphanages and left to fend for themselves. This child neglect can have lifelong consequences on the child. These consequences may interfere with the individual’s life, such as trust issues, emotional intimacy, etc. If a child does not have a responsive parent who takes care of their needs, the child is likely to have short-life expectancy, lower IQ, emotional, behavioral developmental difficulties, etc.

Child Neglect & its Impacts

Child neglect is when parents consistently fail to provide their children with basic needs such as food and shelter. Emotional neglect is when the family ignores the child and doesn’t give the child the attention he or she needs. Physical neglect is when parents don’t feed, protect, or provide shelter for their child. They also don’t provide children with basic necessities for good hygiene or good nutrition. Educational neglect is when parents fail to bring their child to school or provide their child with an education. When children are neglected, they feel like they don’t matter and that they aren’t cared for. Long time exposure to stressors like food insecurity can interfere with the child’s development. Stressors can cause an increase in the cortisol levels, which can shorten life expectancy, increase chances of developing PTSD, anxiety, and can affect the child’s life on a daily basis. The consequences depends on when the child was neglected and how long the neglect has been going on for. Also, different types of neglects yield different results (Crompton 2017).

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This research follows the children in Romania through adulthood to see how early childhood neglect affects the child in the long-run. “The study followed 165 people adopted in infancy from severely depriving Romanian orphanages. All the children were adopted by British families in the 1990s.” (Compton 2017). The orphans in these institutions were malnourished, lacked responsive care, and were socially isolated in their cribs. In the study, the orphans, ages from couple weeks to four years old were split into two groups: those who stayed at the Romanian institutions for 6 months and longer compared to those who stayed in the orphanages for less than 6 months. The study also had a control group which included U.K. born kids in foster care, so that researchers could compare it to Romanian-born kids who suffered from neglect in the state-run orphanages

Romanian kids that spent less than 6 months in institutions, with foster parents who provided responsive love, care, and support showed a big advancement in the cognitive and emotional abilities. On the other hand, the children who were deprived of food, education, emotional support, and care have found to have attention problems, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. The longer the child spends with caregivers who are hostile, inattentive, neglectful, and mean, the more detrimental the effects are. In addition, those who stay in institutional orphanages where the child is mostly neglected by nurses, have a lower IQ and suffer more mental health problem. All in all, children benefit best if placed in a caring, loving household versus later on because the longer it takes for placement to happen the more consequences the child will face.

Without a parent or primary caregiver a child can always rely on, can have adverse effects on the child. Orphans in Romania are emotionally neglected because they are left alone in their cribs with no one to talk to or soothe them when they cry. Lack of comfort and communication from parents can directly impact the brain. Lack of engagement and stimulation to the brain can lead to delayed language and other odd behavior. The more stress the child experiences, the more it affects the body. For example, the telomeres at the end of the chromosomes, which are aging cell can shorten (Compton 2016). The longer the child is deprived of food, education, and emotional support, the shorter the lifespan. Especially if the child is young and is placed in orphanages longer than six months. The neglect and trauma the child faces every day can harm the child intellectual functioning. For instance, executive functions of a young child may suffer. Executive functions are needed for problem-solving, learning, and impulse control. Because of the daily stressors like not having food every day or a parent who will comfort them, their cortisol levels, a stress hormone will rise, which will make it difficult for a child to follow directions, sit still, and focus.

Compared to those in the UK where the adoptee had family bonding and a loving parent. The parents who maintained proximal seeking and contact maintaining with their child had secure attachment compared to those in the institutions where nurses did not form secure attachments with the orphans. The nurses who did not bond and snuggle had a more of an insecure/disorganized attachment. Disorganized attachment is when the child has high anxiety and high avoidances and is when the child is constantly scared and confused when their caregivers leave. Children who do not form secure and an emotional attachment to parents may be put at risk for developing PTSD. “Children diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma”( Babbel 2011). Being emotionally and physically neglected can lead a ray of psychological consequences which include PTSD and problems forming relationships with people. Symptoms of PTSD may include hyper-alert, oversensitivity, and hyper-vigilant to danger. In addition to attachment problems, Infants don’t develop a sense of trust in the world. Erik Erikson developed the theory of trust and attachment. If an infant is taken care of, meaning that their basic needs and emotional needs are met then they will develop a sense of trust in the world. But if the child experiences too much uncertainty about being cared for, they will develop a sense of mistrust in the world. Neglected children may have issues connecting with people and can have trouble making deep bonds with people because of their trust issues (McBride 2017). In conclusion, insecure attachments can influence a child’s close relationship and in the long-run.


I learned that child who experiences child neglect have higher chances of having mental disorders such as PTSD, and other behavioral and emotional problems. Research in Romania has shown that children who have been neglected at a younger age for a longer period of time suffered more in terms of learning abilities and life expectancy. The child is still developing so when exposed to repeated stressors will interfere will their brain development and educational ability. The long term consequences of disorganized attachment and failure to meet a child basic needs can affect the child ability to trust others.

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Child Neglect and its Impact. (2020, Mar 08). Retrieved from