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Other useful references

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.


Developmental consequences

  • A review article describing the developmental consequences of child neglect throughout the lifespan 1

Physical Consequences

  • There is conflicting literature relating to the role of neglect in obesity
  • Some studies suggest that children of neglectful parents are twice as likely to be overweight than controls (e.g. 2), however in one study they were found to have a greater BMI in comparison to national norms, but did not differ from controls 3
  • In contrast in a study of maltreated children, being neglected reduced the odds of being overweight or obese 4
  • Likewise an evaluation of parenting style did not identify any correlation between (neglectful) parenting and BMI scores 5
  • In a longitudinal study, those children experiencing neglect had a faster rate of increasing BMI than controls 6
  • An exploration of adult obesity noted that adults recalling childhood neglect or emotional abuse exhibited more obesity at the age of 20 years + 7
  • Children identified as experiencing non-organic failure to thrive were followed up over 20 years, showing a variety of impacts on adult functioning 8
  • In a short-term follow up, these children were more likely to suffer physical abuse and have reduced performance on IQ testing 9
  • Childhood neglect is associated with greater prevalence of maturity onset diabetes in the adult population, as well as reduced vision, reduced lung function and oral health problems 10
  • A study of fatalities as a consequence of maltreatment identified that those dying from neglect were predominantly aged less than three years, from larger families, with the mothers the most frequent perpetrators 11,12. In addition they are more likely to have had previous child welfare involvement 12

Mental Health Consequences

  • Children experiencing neglect before the age of 11 years were at increased risk for major depressive disorder within early adulthood. The age of onset of depression was also younger among those who had been neglected than controls. They were also more likely to have co-morbid diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, antisocial personality disorder, or dysthymia 13
  • Neglectful parents expressed greater loneliness, social isolation and increased numbers of stressful life events in comparison to controls 14
  • Literature would suggest that early childhood neglect or abuse may be associated with ADHD in later childhood 15,16. There is a suggestion that girls may be more susceptible to this effect than boys 16

Distinguishing features of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • A prospective study was conducted to identify discriminating features between ADHD and reactive attachment disorder in school-aged children 17

Risk Factors

  • Maternal depression is associated with childhood neglect although there may be many mediators for this effect 18
  • In an assessment of the impact of stress on maternal responses, neglectful mothers were more hostile, impulsive and the least socialized when under stress, in comparison to controls or physically abusive mothers 19
  • An exploration of gender and family structures on the risk of child neglect 20
  • Substance misuse and criminality associated with it are a risk factor for neglect 21
  • A longitudinal birth cohort study identified that the infants with a low birth weight were at slightly higher risk of experiencing neglect or emotional abuse 22

Assessment Tools

  •  A review article examines the current tools available for the assessment of children experiencing neglect, emotional abuse or potential maltreatment 23


  • A Canadian incidence study during 1998 noted that 40% of investigations were due to neglect and 19% emotional maltreatment 24
  • Another Canadian incidence study from 2003 recorded the prevalence of neglect and emotional abuse with relevant associated risk factors 25,26
  • UK incidence figures of abuse and neglect are provided by the NSPCC
  • An examination of longitudinal studies identified the prevalence of neglect using different definitions 27


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  1. Hildyard KL, Wolfe DA. Child neglect: developmental issues and outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2002;26(6-7):679-695 [Pubmed]

  2. Rhee KE, Lumeng JC, Appugliese DP, Kaciroti N, Bradley RH. Parenting styles and overweight status in first grade. Pediatrics. 2006;117(6):2047-2054 [Pubmed]

  3. Bennett DS, Wolan Sullivan M, Thompson SM, Lewis M. Early child neglect: does it predict obesity or underweight in later childhood? Child Maltreatment. 2010;15(3):250-254 [Pubmed]

  4. Schneiderman JU, Mennen FE, Negriff S, Trickett PK. Overweight and obesity among maltreated young adolescents. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2012;36(4):370-8 [Pubmed]

  5. Rodenburg G, Kremers SP, Oenema A, van de Mheen D. Psychological control by parents is associated with a higher child weight. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. 2011;6(5-6):442-9 [Pubmed]

  6. Shin SH, Miller DP. A longitudinal examination of childhood maltreatment and adolescent obesity: results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (AddHealth) Study. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2012;36(2):84-94 [Pubmed]

  7. Vámosi ME, Heitmann BL, Thinggaard M, Kyvik KO. Parental care in childhood and obesity in adulthood: a study among twins. Obesity. 2011;19(7):1445-50 [Pubmed]

  8. Iwaniec D, Sneddon H, Allen S. The outcomes of a longitudinal study of non-organic failure-to-thrive. Child Abuse Review. 2003;12(4):216-226. [Abstract available from Wiley Online Library]

  9. Hufton IW, Oates RK. Nonorganic failure to thrive: a long-term follow-up. Pediatrics. 1977;59(1):73-7 [Pubmed]

  10. Widom CS, Czaja SJ, Bentley T, Johnson MS. A prospective investigation of physical health outcomes in abused and neglected children: new findings from a 30-year follow-up. American Journal of Public Health. 2012;102(6):1135-44 [Pubmed]

  11. Margolin L. Child Welfare. Fatal child neglect. 1990;69(4):309-19 [Pubmed]

  12. Damashek A, Nelson MM, Bonner BL. Fatal child maltreatment: characteristics of deaths from physical abuse versus neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2013;37(10):735-44 [Pubmed]

  13. Widom CS, DuMont K, Czaja SJ. A prospective investigation of major depressive disorder and comorbidity in abused and neglected children grown up. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2007;64(1):49-56 [Pubmed]

  14. Gaudin JM Jr, Polansky NA, Kilpatrick AC, Shilton P. Loneliness, depression, stress, and social supports in neglectful families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 1993;63(4):597-605 [Pubmed]

  15. Ouyang L, Fang X, Mercy J, Perou R, Grosse SD. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and child maltreatment: a population-based study. Journal of Pediatrics. 2008;153(6):851-6. [Pubmed]

  16. Briscoe-Smith AM, Hinshaw SP. Linkages between child abuse and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in girls: behavioral and social correlates. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2006;30(11):1239-55 [Pubmed]

  17. Follan M, Anderson S, Huline-Dickens S, Lidstone E, Young D, Brown G, Minnis H. Discrimination between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and reactive attachment disorder in school aged children. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2011;32(2):520-6 [Pubmed]

  18. Turney K. Labored love: Examining the link between maternal depression and parenting behaviors. Social Science Research. 2011;40(1):399-415 [Abstract available from Science Direct]

  19. Friedrich WN, Tyler JD, Clark JA. Personality and psychophysiological variables in abusive, neglectful, and low-income control mothers. The Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 1985;173(8):449-60. [Pubmed]

  20. Dufour S, Lavergne C, Larrivée M-C, Trocmé N. Who are these parents involved in child neglect? A differential analysis by parent gender and family structure. Children & Youth Services Review. 2008;30(2):141-156 [Abstract available from Science Direct]

  21. Haight W, Jacobsen T, Black J, Kingery L, Sheridan K, Mulder C. “In these bleak days”: Parent methamphetamine abuse and child welfare in the rural Midwest. Children & Youth Services Review. 2005;27(8):949-971 [Abstract available from Science Direct]

  22. Spencer N, Wallace A, Sundrum R, Bacchus C, Logan S. Child abuse registration, fetal growth, and preterm birth: a population based study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2006;60(4):337-40 [Pubmed]

  23. Gershater-Molko RM, Lutzker JR, Sherman JA. Assessing child neglect. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2003;8(6):563-585 [Abstract available from Science Direct]

  24. Trocmé NM, Tourigny M, MacLaurin B, Fallon B. Major findings from the Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse and Neglect. 2003;27(12):1427-1439 [Pubmed]
  25. Chamberland C, Fallon B, Black T, Trocme N. Emotional maltreatment in Canada: prevalence, reporting and child welfare responses (CIS2). Child Abuse & Neglect. 2011;35(10):841-54 [Pubmed]

  26. Chamberland C, Fallon B, Black T, Trocmé N, Chabot M. Correlates of substantiated emotional maltreatment in the second Canadian Incidence Study. Journal of Family Violence. 2012;27(3):201-213 [Abstract available from Springer Link]

  27. Dubowitz H, Pitts SC, Litrownik AJ, Cox CE, Runyan D, Black MM. Defining child neglect based on child protective services data. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2005;29(5):493-511 [Pubmed]



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