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The Neglect of Children: Food for Thought and Action


This commentary highlights several challenges concerning the conceptualization of child neglect and the approach to this prevalent problem, with the goal of stimulating further thought and hopefully action. Examples include consideration of potential harm, the role of culture, intentionality, and new forms of neglect related to new knowledge of children’s needs. Assessment of possible neglect, interviewing children, use of motivational interviewing, and the importance of identifying families’ strengths are additional issues. Finally, the commentary addresses alternative response systems, resilience, prevention, and advocacy. We suggest ways to tackle these challenges.

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Correspondence to Howard Dubowitz.

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We have touched upon several key aspects of child neglect, briefly describing what we see as problematic and suggesting approaches for practitioners, organizations, and systems. We recognize the challenges and hope that we have provided food for thought to stimulate new thinking, and action, to better address the needs of neglected children and their families. Helping address child neglect is a good fight, one that needs to be fought on many fronts. We should apply what we know about children’s and families’ needs, help prevent neglect and its often lasting harm, and help build a better future for all.

Dr. Dubowitz owns the copyright to the Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK) materials. All revenues from licenses and trainings help sustain the dissemination of the SEEK model. Dr. Kobulsky has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Dubowitz, H., Kobulsky, J. The Neglect of Children: Food for Thought and Action. Int. Journal on Child Malt. 5, 337–349 (2022).

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  • Child neglect
  • Definition
  • Assessment
  • Prevention