A Review of Child Neglect in Scotland

The study reviewed the scale and nature of child neglect in Scotland and was conducted by researchers at te University of Stirling.



Neglect is extremely damaging to children in the short and long term. The experience of neglect affects physical, cognitive and emotional development; relationships, behaviour and opportunities.

For many people, the most obvious form of neglect is poor physical care. It is certainly very damaging for children's health and development to be inadequately fed and clothed. But neglect can also take many other forms, not all of them accompanied by the obvious physical signs of being severely under- or over-weight, dirty and scruffy. Neglected children include those who experience any, or all, of:

  • being left alone in the house or in the streets for long periods of time
  • lack of parental support for school attendance
  • being ignored when distressed, or even when excited or happy
  • lack of proper healthcare when required
  • having no opportunity to have fun with their parents or with other children.

Of all forms of maltreatment, neglect leads to some of the most profound negative and long-term effects on brain and other physical development, behaviour, educational achievement and emotional wellbeing (Stevenson, 2007). Neglect is not only damaging in early years, its effects in teenage years are often overlooked (Stein et al., 2009). For some children neglect is so profound that they starve to death or die because of accidents associated with lack of supervision. And yet neglect appears to pose real challenges for researchers, theoreticians, national and local policy-makers and those delivering services (Burgess and Daniel, 2011).

The simple and stark reality for children whose needs are not being met is that life is pretty miserable. Yet given the enormity of the impact, neglect has tended to attract less public attention than child sexual abuse, physical abuse and online exploitation.


Email: Philip Raines

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