Trauma and Neglect
What is trauma?
Psychological trauma can be described as a type of damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event or series of events. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.
Trauma can take many forms:
In all cases, childhood trauma can have debilitating effects long into adulthood, affecting health, employment, emotional wellbeing, mental health and, of course, learning and education outcomes.
Possible reactions to trauma:
A child or young person’s response to trauma will depend on a wide range of factors: their age, inherited characteristics that impact on personality, stage of development, whether they have dependable strong and stable relationships with key adults (parents, grandparents, older siblings, or significant others such as other relatives/friends, carers… teachers) and the impact of the trauma on their parents.
Some children or young people might seem to cope well at first, but can experience reactions to trauma days, weeks, months or even years later!
A Strategy to support children dealing with trauma:
This is not just limited to verbal discussions, it could be other forms of interaction like drawing, play-acting or other activities. Problem-free talking is a positive start to a solution-focused process.
Inviting the child to begin with describing their likes and strengths will communicate to them that there is more to them than just the problem.
The aim of problem-free talk is to help the child to discover positive things about themselves. However, if a child needs to unburden themselves, they may need to spend some time on talking about problems at the outset of a session, to get this off their chest. During this time, it is important to listen to them and to acknowledge what they tell you, while listening out for ways that you can draw the conversation towards solutions. For example, you may say, “That sounds difficult, how did you cope with that situation?”
If you are worried about your child due to experiencing trauma, please speak to a member of staff or a medical profession.
What is neglect?
Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs and the most common form of child abuse. A child might be left hungry or dirty, or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care. This can put children and young people in danger and it can also have long term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.
Types of neglect
Neglect can be a lot of different things, which can make it hard to spot. But broadly speaking, there are 4 types of neglect.
1) Physical neglect:
A child's basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they aren't properly supervised or kept safe.
2) Educational neglect:
A parent doesn't ensure their child is given an education.
3) Emotional neglect:
A child doesn't get the nurture and stimulation they need. This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.
4) Medical neglect:
A child isn't given proper health care. This includes dental care and refusing or ignoring medical recommendations.
Signs of neglect
Neglect can be really difficult to spot. Having one of the signs doesn't necessarily mean a child is being neglected. But if you notice multiple signs that last for a while, they might show there's a serious problem. Children and young people who are neglected might have:
Poor appearance and hygiene:
Health and development problems:
Housing and family issues:
Change in behaviour:
using drugs or alcohol.
If a child reveals abuse:
A child who is being neglected might not realise what’s happening is wrong. And they might even blame themselves. If a child talks to you about neglect it’s important to:
report what the child has told you as soon as possible.
Effects of neglect:
Neglect changes childhood. Children who've been neglected might experience short-term and long-term effects.
These can include:
Who's at risk?
Any child can suffer neglect. But some children and young people are more at risk than others. These include children who:
Other problems and life circumstances:
Other problems and life circumstances can make it harder for parents and carers to meet their child's needs. When one or more of these issues occur, it can put a child at risk of neglect.
Children living in home where there's domestic abuse are more likely to experience other types of abuse and neglect.
Drugs or alcohol
Children living with parents with alcohol or drug problems can be more at risk of harm and neglect. These issues can make it difficult for parents and carers to look after their children.
History of abuse
Being abused or neglected as child doesn't mean someone will go on to harm others. But a lot of people who abuse or neglect children have experienced it themselves. We've got support for adults who faced abuse as children.
Just because a parent has learning disabilities or difficulties it doesn't mean they aren't a great mum or dad. But some parents can struggle to understand what they need to do to provide proper care for their child. In some cases, this can lead to a child being neglected.
Most parents or carers with a mental health problem give their children the love, care and support they need. But some might struggle at certain times. This can mean children might be at a higher risk of abuse or neglect.
Living in poverty
Housing and money worries can put a lot of stress on parents. This can stop them being able to provide the practical and emotional support that children need, which can lead to neglect.
Lack of support
Family, friends, neighbours or the wider community can give parents the support they need to help keep their child safe. But sometimes parents don't have this support which can put children at a higher risk of neglect.
Support For parents and carers from the NSPCC:
We run therapeutic services for families under pressure:
• Building Blocks
• Parents Under Pressure™.
Find out more about all our services, including how to get in touch with ones in your area.
For children and young people:
How Childline can help?
Children and young people can get support and advice about neglect from Childline if they're facing neglect or if they're worried about a friend or family member. Whether it's happening now or happened in the past, Childline can be contacted 24/7. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and confidential. Children can also contact Childline online.
If you are worried about a child being neglected, please speak to a member of staff, external agency above or a medical profession.