Among all of the ways children can suffer in childhood, neglect is turning out to be equally as traumatic as physical and/or sexual abuse. To better understand how destructive neglect can be (and we are not talking only about lack of food, clothing, or shelter), here is some material from Bruce Perry, one of leaders in the study of how adversity challenges the developing brain in children.
The Neurodevelopmental Impact of Neglect in ChildhoodThis new research suggests that neglected boys are more likely to display violence as adolescents, which makes perfect in that neglect can severely compromise affect regulation, allowing anger to escalate to violence very easily.
Neglect is the absence of critical organizing experiences at key times during development. Despite its obvious importance in understanding child maltreatment, neglect has been understudied. Indeed, deprivation of critical experiences during development may be the most destructive yet the least understood area of child maltreatment. There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is that neglect is difficult to “see.” Unlike a broken bone, maldevelopment of neural systems mediating empathy, for example, resulting from emotional neglect during infancy is not readily observable.
[W]hat we do know about neglect during early childhood supports a neuroarcheological view of adverse childhood experience. The earlier and more pervasive the neglect is, the more devastating the developmental problems for the child. Indeed, chaotic, inattentive and ignorant caregiving can produce pervasive developmental delay (PDD; DSM IV-R) in a young child (Rutter et al., 1999). Yet the very same inattention for the same duration if the child is ten will have very different and less severe impact than inattention during the first years of life. (Perry, 2002, p. 88-89)
Here is a brief definition of affect regulation:
AFFECT is the behavioral expression of emotion and affect regulation is a set of processes individuals use to manage emotions and their expression to accomplish goals. However, structures involved in affect regulation are among the last to mature in the developing brain; therefore, many adolescents may not be adequately equipped to regulate their affect. Consequently, adolescents are at increased risk of adverse health outcomes associated with poor affect regulation. (Bell & McBride, 2010)That should be enough foundation to contextualize this article (press release, actually).
August 18, 2014
Written by Matt Swayne
Source: Penn State
Parents who physically neglect their boys may increase the risk that they will raise violent adolescents, according to sociologists. Examples of physical neglect include not taking a sick or injured child to the doctor, improperly clothing a child and not feeding a child, according to the researchers. While physical abuse is a significant contributor to violent behavior, physical neglect alone is an even stronger predictor of male adolescent violence than physical abuse, they noted.__________
Parents who physically neglect their boys may increase the risk that they will raise violent adolescents, according to Penn State sociologists.
In a study of currently incarcerated male adolescents, physical neglect during childhood arose as the strongest predictor of violent behavior, said William McGuigan, associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Shenango. Researchers are just beginning to acknowledge the powerful role of neglect in influencing adolescent violence, he added.
"One of the problems with studying neglect is that it is an act of omission, rather than one of commission. In other words, it is characterized as the absence of an act, rather than an actual act of mistreatment," said McGuigan. "However, now we have better measures and larger databases to document neglect."
Examples of physical neglect include not taking a sick or injured child to the doctor, improperly clothing a child and not feeding a child, according to the researchers who will present their findings today (Aug. 18) at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.
The study indicated that while physical abuse is a significant contributor to violent behavior, physical neglect alone is an even stronger predictor of male adolescent violence than physical abuse, or even physical abuse and neglect combined.
"It sounds somewhat contrarian, but the physical abuse might at least show that parents are paying some type of attention to the child," said McGuigan, who worked with Roxanne Atterholt, instructor, and Jack A. Luchette, an undergraduate student, both in in human development and family studies at Penn State Shenango.
McGuigan said that understanding how neglect can influence violent behavior in adolescent males may lead to better education for caregivers and better care for at-risk youths.
"We have to look more into neglect and become more aware of how it may cause some of these violent behaviors," said McGuigan. "From that, we can build early preventative care programs than can help avoid these negative outcomes."
The research could also create assessments that, for example, might help protect people who care for adolescents by identifying youths who are more prone to violence.
The researchers analyzed data taken from a survey of 85 subjects, who are residents of a Pennsylvania detention center for delinquent males. In the survey, 25 of the participants, or 29.4 percent of the group, said that they experienced at least one incidence of childhood neglect. Acts of violence included fighting with students or parents, hitting teachers or instructors and using a weapon to scare, rob or injure another person.
Sexual abuse was not included in the survey. Only two subjects responded that they were sexually abused in the survey, which was not enough to provide conclusive findings, McGuigan said.
The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by Matt Swayne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.