This section is targeted toward adults because it may contain some sensitive information for children and child abuse victims. The information on this page is to help people you know who have been abused or are being abused. 

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) defines child neglect as the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. There are different types of neglect, including: physical, educational, emotional, and medical neglect. Each type can be just as detrimental as physical child abuse. 

The signs of child neglect are difficult to spot, but it's important to be able to tell the difference between the different types:

  • Physical neglect: Failing to care for the child’s basic needs such as clothing, hygiene, shelter, or nutrition, or abandoning the child 

  • Educational neglect: Not enrolling the child in school, allowing the child to continuously skip school, or ignoring the child’s special education needs

  • Emotional neglect: Not providing emotional support or affection to the child, exposing him/her to substance abuse or domestic violence

  • Medical neglect: Failing to provide the child with proper healthcare, disregarding the child's medical recommendations/treatments or dental care


The intention of parents and guardians isn't to neglect their children. Often, other factors come into play that prevent them from looking after their children properly. These factors can range from bad financials to a history of neglect. By taking a look at these factors, you can identify the signs of an adult who might neglect a child in the future, and potentially prevent that from happening. 

There are various signs that a child might exhibit if being abused. Keep in mind that just because a child exhibits one of the signs does not necessarily mean that they are being neglected. If, however, these signs persist over a period of time, then that would be a cause for concern. These signs include:

  • Frequent absences from school

  • Consistent "dirty" appearance

  • Substance abuse

  • Inappropriately dressed for the weather

  • Stealing/begging for money

  • Terrible hygiene  

  • Extremely underweight

  • Poor language/social skills

  • Anemia

  • Missing medical appointments

  • Regularly ill

  • Skin issues (rashes, flea bites, sores, etc.)

  • Fatigue

  • Untreated injuries

  • Poor academic performance

  • Living in an unstable home environment (no heating, no running water, etc.)

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Difficulty to concentrate

  • Poor growth

  • Eating more than usual at meals/saving food for later

  • Self-punishment

Long-term impacts of neglect:

  • Slow development

  • Taking excessive risks (breaking the law often, substance abuse, etc.)

  • Getting involved in dangerous relationships

  • Depression, other mental health problems

  • Trouble controlling emotions

  • Low self-esteem

At least 1 in 7 children experience neglect a year. Even if you have the smallest suspicion that a child is being neglected, please do not brush it off.