Child Protection Evidence - Early years neglect

Child Protection Evidence is a resource available for clinicians across the UK and internationally to inform clinical practice, child protection procedures and professional and expert opinion in the legal system. This systematic review evaluates the literature on early years neglect.

About the review

This systematic review evaluates the scientific literature on early years neglect published up until November 2014.

It aims to answer the following clinical question:

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

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, but frequently goes unrecognised.

This review studies the effects of early years neglect by identifying the emotional, behavioural and developmental features by the following age groups; 0-20 months, 20-30 months, 3-4 years and 4-6 years.

The implications for practice and research, and other useful references are included in the review.

Key findings

  • Given the delay in language, both receptive and expressive, in neglected/emotionally abused children, it is essential that all practitioners working with pre-school children are trained in normal child development.
  • Important attachment disorders are recognised in young infants and toddlers and warrant formal evaluation by professionals trained in infant mental health, as many features described in neglected/emotionally abused children overlap with those found in children suffering from autistic spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Careful observation and recording of the infant-carer interaction will help to identify neglected / emotionally abused toddlers at an early stage, enabling appropriate assessment and intervention.
  • There are clearly identifiable features in the pre-school child who is being neglected and / or emotionally abused, thus it is incumbent upon all health practitioners working with these children to be aware of the indicators that they may identify.

Disclaimer: This 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

Original reviews and content © Cardiff University, funded by NSPCC
Published by RCPCH July 2017

While the format of each review has been revised to fit the style of the College and amalgamated into a comprehensive document, the content remains unchanged until reviewed and new evidence is identified and added to the evidence-base. Updated content will be indicated on individual review pages.