What are the Signs of Neglect?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Signs of neglect can be found in both the child victim and the victim's parents. A child who is being neglected will often display signs in their clothing, hygiene, and actions. Parents who are neglecting their children may show signs in their interactions with their child and in their abuse of substances.

One of the most common signs of neglect in a young child is clothing. Children who are not properly taken care of will often wear noticeably ill-fitting clothes, either much too small or too large, that are typically dirty, excessively worn, or inappropriate for the weather. This can occur despite the fact that the parent is financially capable of providing proper clothing for the child. While this sign of neglect can sometimes be found in older children or teenagers, it is more rare. Teens, in many cases, can care for their clothing, or able to obtain their own, and therefore capable of hiding the neglect.

Another typical sign of neglect in children, especially those under the age of 10, is poor hygiene. A victim of neglect will often not be given a bath or be afforded the opportunity to do so or denied the tools they need to clean themselves. Excessive dirtiness or a permanent foul odor are among the most noticeable signs of this type of neglect. As with clothing, older children and teenagers are often able to take care of these matters on their own; babies, toddlers, and very young children are not.


A child may show signs of neglect through actions. Begging for food or stealing food can be a sign that the child is not being properly fed by parents. Victims of neglect will often be late or missing from school on a regular basis, typically because they are either not made to go or not provided with a means to attend. There are also some emotional signs of neglect. A child may form an unusual attachment to another adult, typically a teacher, community leader, or neighbor. On the other hand, a child might also display an unhealthy distrust for all adults. Frequent references to a parent's absence, being left unsupervised at a young age, and an overall lack of attachment to the parents may also be a sign of neglect.

Some signs of neglect can also sometimes be found in the parents. Mother or fathers who seems disinterested, indifferent, and often annoyed with their child, without reason, may be neglecting them. This is not to be confused with a parent missing some school functions for work or those who are occasionally distracted when their child is speaking to them. This sign of neglect is almost always ongoing and very noticeable to those close to the family and occasionally outsiders. Another common sign of neglect from a parent is habitual use of drugs or alcohol; these substances can make caring for a child's emotional and physical needs next to impossible.

Signs of neglect can be subtle or glaringly obvious. A neglected child is at risk for both physical and mental health issues; the younger the child, the more dangerous neglect can be. Suspected cases should be reported to a local agency for further investigation.


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Post 3

Let's not forget the emotional signs of neglect. Some children might receive some attention in terms of hygiene and food, but they are neglected emotionally. A child that doesn't receive any love or attention from parents is sure to experience emotional problems. It might be very naughty or very withdrawn.

Post 2

@burcinc-- Wow, those are definitely signs of neglect. It's heartbreaking but it's great that you have taken notice of this and are doing something about it. As responsible parents, I think it's also our responsibility to make sure that children in our community are not being neglected or mistreated.

I think the biggest sign of neglect is an always hungry child or a child that appears to be malnourished and is too small for his or her age. Unfortunately, neglectful parents ignore even their child's basic needs. If a child isn't getting a meal at home, it always shows.

Post 1

I have doubts that one of my daughter's classmates might be neglected by her parents. This littler girl is friends with my daughter and my daughter talks about her a lot. She tells me that her friend always wears the same clothes and they're not very clean. And she says that sometimes she smells bad too. She also never brings lunch with her and doesn't buy lunch from school.

I asked her if her teacher does anything about it and she said no. I'm planning on speaking to the teacher about this little girl's condition. My heart just goes out to her and if I can help her in any way, I will. I already send an extra sandwich, milk and apple with my daughter so that she at least has lunch at school.

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