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Early Years Neglect / EA

The following is a summary of the systematic review findings up to the date of our most recent literature search. If you have a specific clinical case, we strongly recommend you read all of the relevant references as cited and look for additional material published outside our search dates.


Review last updated in November 2014


Neglect has varying definitions across agencies and countries.  However, evidence clearly shows that neglect of infants and young children has far-reaching consequences 1,2.  For the purposes of this review, we have focused on neglect and emotional abuse in children aged 0 – 6 years using the World Health Organization definitions.  Practitioners often lack confidence in identifying the emotionally neglected / abused infant or toddler and thus there is delay in implementing appropriate interventions 3

Between 2011 and 2014, 11 further studies have been identified, of which six are high quality case-control studies. These have reinforced the original findings but added further information in relation to the moral and emotional behaviour of the child as well as maternal sensitivity and mother-child interaction. We wished to identify features in the primary carer-child relationship; unfortunately there are still no studies relating to fathers in the context of early neglect, thus this review addresses solely mother-child interactions.


The review seeks to answer the following review question:

  1. What are the emotional, behavioural and developmental (EBD) features in the child indicative of any type of neglect / emotional abuse?

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  1. Egeland B, Erickson MF. Psychologically unavailable caregiving: The effects on development of young children and the implications for intervention. In: Brassard M, Germain B, Hart S, editors. Psychological maltreatment of children and youth. New York: Pergamon Press; 1987. p.110-120
  2. Erickson MF, Egeland B, Pianta R. The effects of maltreatment on the development of young children. In: Cicchetti D, Carlson V, editors. Child maltreatment: Theory and research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1989. p.647-684 [Abstract provided by American Psychological Association PsycNET]
  3. Gardner R. Developing an effective response to neglect and emotional harm to children: Norwich: UEA / NSPCC. 2008 [Article provided by NSPCC]


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