Early neglect predicts aggressive behavior in children

April 7, 2008

Children who are neglected before their second birthday display higher levels of aggressive behavior between ages 4 and 8, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study, published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Early child neglect may be as important as child abuse for predicting aggressive behavior, researchers say. Neglect accounts for nearly two-thirds of all child maltreatment cases reported in the United States each year, according to the Administration for Children and Families.

“The lack of attention devoted to the problem of neglect – the so-called ‘neglect of neglect’ – is a long-standing concern in the child welfare field,” said study co-author Jon Hussey, research assistant professor of maternal and child health in the UNC School of Public Health and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center. “Despite being more common than abuse, we know relatively little about the impact of neglect on children.”

More than 1,300 children from four cities and one Southern state are participating in the longitudinal study, which is coordinated by the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC). All were known to have been maltreated or were at risk of maltreatment. They were monitored from birth through age 8. A child was considered neglected if his parents or caregivers did not provide adequate supervision or failed to meet the child’s minimum physical needs for food, clothing and shelter. Abuse was defined as either sexual or physical.

Aggression – arguing, cruelty to others, destruction of property, disobedience, threatening people and fighting or physically attacking others – was based on perceptions of the child’s primary caregiver, who was interviewed when the child was aged 4, 6 and 8.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen evidence suggesting that in some circumstances, neglect can be as harmful to children as abuse,” said Hussey, who published a study in Pediatrics in 2006, linking neglect to teenage violence, depression and drug use. “Understanding the consequences of early childhood neglect will help us plan programs and other interventions to benefit these children throughout their lives.”

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: Care system not to blame for increased risk of mental health issues in children

Related Stories

Review shows child protection services need further work

June 19, 2017

One of the first academic and independent reviews of the Government's direction on child protection services has raised fundamental concerns that the study author, Otago University's Dr Emily Keddell, says need addressing.

8 in 10 Indonesian children has been infected with dengue

June 16, 2017

Indonesia has one of the highest burdens of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus, in the world, and children account for many cases. Well over half of all children in urban areas are infected with dengue by the age of 5, ...

Elder abuse report ignores impact on people's health

June 15, 2017

The good news is that Australia is doing something positive to improve the lives of our parents and grandparents. The bad news is we can no longer pretend there are golden years awaiting us all in old age.

Recommended for you

Following a friend leads to unsafe driving behavior

June 23, 2017

Have you ever tried following a friend in a car? It can stressful; if you don't keep up, you are likely to get lost. To avoid this, you may make unsafe driving manoeuvres to keep sight of the car ahead.

Tough times make for more impulsive pre-teens

June 23, 2017

The loss of a grandparent. Marital discord at home. Trouble with peers. When pre-teens are forced to deal with adverse life events such as these they tend to become more impulsive in their decision-making later in life. And ...

Video games can change your brain

June 22, 2017

Scientists have collected and summarized studies looking at how video games can shape our brains and behavior. Research to date suggests that playing video games can change the brain regions responsible for attention and ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2008
On the other hand; in my case, aggressive behavior was a conscious choice in response to being severely abused by my maternal parent in my youth. I figured, if I was going to get beaten no matter what I did, I may as well defend myself with whatever force was needed to gain respect from my fellow students at school. Faced with beatings from mother's drunken rages, I decided I would do as I pleased, without regard to household 'rules'...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.