Does Childhood Neglect Cause A Big Problem?

What do you think of when someone talks about childhood neglect? For some people the idea of neglect is certainly a bad thing and something that would seem to shame parents and anyone who is involved. But do we really consider that childhood neglect is such a bad thing. Clearly no-one is saying it’s a good thing or that people should be lauded by neglecting children. However, we might not think that it is appalling as certain other crimes against children such as physical abuse or sexual abuse. It’s only now that attitudes are beginning to change as we are starting to see the real problems that abuse can cause, not just emotionally but physically as well.


Science is now showing people the truth about the neglect of children, and it’s not painting a pretty picture at all. In fact, science is now showing that neglect is very dangerous for the health of a child, both in the sense that it can cause problems for their ability to interact socially, but also because neglect during childhood appears to affect a change in the brain that children will never be able to recover from.


So, is it possible then that childhood neglect might actually be more damaging that physical abuse or sexual abuse. One team of scientists decided to have a look into this and see if they could ascertain how much of an effect that neglect has on children. To do so, they looked at mice, which might seem like a strange thing to do, but mice have complex social structures much like humans do. Placing young mice in isolation, to simulate the realities of neglect among very young children, the researchers were able to study how the mice reacted on their return to normal society.


The team were able to notice that the mice who were put in isolation didn’t act normally on their return to living with other mice. They were seen to be anti-social in a way that mice that have grown up normally do not seem to be. In effect they were able to integrate back into their society after they had suffer the isolated conditions that would be the same as childhood neglect for children. This shows that children who are neglected will find it difficult to act normally when they grow up, and obviously shows on one level how bad that neglect is for children.


However, the researchers were able to look a little deeper into what might be causing these children to have trouble integrating into society after neglect. Perhaps you’d imagine that simply the emotional trauma is what would cause the problems, but apparently this is just the problem on the surface; the real issue is physical rather than emotional.


The researchers were able to learn that while the mice were in isolation their brains began to change. Certain cells that are important in terms of forming emotions and bonds were shown to be very thin in these mice. This shows that it is actually a physical change that happens and is the likely cause of the issues with the mice returning to their society.


With children who suffer neglect, it may be that they have the same problems and that their inability to function normally is caused by this. This worrying analysis suggests that we must treat the neglect of children very seriously, because it is likely to be damaging them for life, in ways that cannot be easily or ever fixed. Just like physical or sexual abuse, neglect has the power to ruin lives.

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