Child Neglect: Practice Issues for Health and Social Care

By Julie Taylor; Brigid Daniel | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Is This Child Neglect?
The Influence of Differences in Perceptions
of Child Neglect on Social Work Practice
Jan Horwath
Introduction
A social worker participating in a research study of child neglect asked the following question:

How do I know what I consider to be neglect is the same as everyone else
working with the child?

At one level the answer appears obvious; there are both working definitions of neglect and lists of signs and indicators. However, the definitions and the lists are open to individual interpretation and this is where the differences described by the respondent can occur. Lally (1984) notes that different perceptions of child neglect are determined by cultural agreement and belief systems, social systems and the personal views held by individuals. Sullivan (2000) summarizes ways in which these views influence both professional and media attitudes towards neglect. In an overview of the literature she found the following beliefs exist about child neglect:
child neglect does not have serious consequences
it is inappropriate to judge parents involved in poverty-related neglect
child neglect is an insurmountable problem
other forms of child maltreatment are more compelling
ambiguity and vagueness make it difficult to define neglect

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