“The Silent Epidemic” – Part 4

“The Silent Epidemic” – Childhood Trauma – Part 4: Risk Factors Associated with Child Neglect


The presence of certain factors put children at higher risks for neglect. They include environmental, family, parent/caregiver and child factors. Environmental factors include poverty, community and societal characteristics, lack of social supports, many of these are often interrelated. Certain family characteristics such as the presence of domestic violence and family compositions of single-parent or dual-parent households with high marital discord increases risks of child neglect. Certain communication styles such as interactions with less empathy and positive emotions, decreased emotional closeness and openness and more negative interactions increase such risks. Parents that are less responsive and willing to take responsibilities, are less supportive, playful and affectionate also contribute. Presence of stressful events add to child neglect, as parents-caregivers have little time and/or the emotional capacity to care for the children. These stressors can be classified into chronic environmental stress, daily hassles, stressful life events (e.g. unemployment or deaths in the family) and role strain (i.e. inability to fulfill a particular role). Certain characteristics have been observed to be present in parents-caregivers associated with child neglect. They involve the presence of problematic childhoods, substance abuse, physical/mental health problems and poor parenting and problem-solving skills (DePanfilis, 2006).

Certain child factors such as children under the age of three and children with special needs are often associated with neglect. Other factors include premature births, presence of birth anomalies or children gang memberships. Certain child temperament type such as irritable temperaments and hard-to soothe babies are at higher risks. Neglected children display a distinct passive, nonassertive disposition with withdrawn behaviors, although it is unclear whether such behaviors cause neglect or if they were neglected as a consequence of these behaviors. Other internalizing and externalizing behaviors associated with neglect are discussed in the following table. Internalizing behaviors tend to be overlooked, as these children rarely act out. While children with externalizing behaviors often receive more attention due to their disruptive actions towards others (DePanfilis, 2006).



Internalized Behavioral Problems –

A cause for concern, if experienced persistently or many are experienced at once


  • Agitation and/or irritability
  • Avoidance – certain activities or people
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of hopelessness


  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • Poor appetite or overeating


  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Sleeping too much


Externalized Behavioral Problems –

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Not listening when spoken to
  • Easily distracted/ Forgetful
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Excessive talking
  • Difficulty waiting for their turns
  • Bedwetting


  • Physically cruel to people/animals
  • Bullying/threatening others
  • Stealing



Gratitude – Quek Wan Ting