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The Science of Neglect

The Science of Neglect

Ensuring that young children have safe, secure environments in which to grow and learn creates a strong foundation for both their futures and a thriving, prosperous society. Science shows that early exposure to maltreatment or neglect can disrupt healthy development and have lifelong consequences. When adult responses to children are unreliable, inappropriate, or simply absent, developing brain circuits can be disrupted, affecting how children learn, solve problems, and relate to others.

Research shows neglect can cause more lasting harm to a young child’s development than overt physical abuse. In the U.S., neglect accounts for 78% of all child maltreatment cases, far more than physical abuse (17%), sexual abuse (9%), and psychological abuse (8%) combined.

This 6-minute video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explains why significant deprivation is so harmful in the earliest years of life and why effective interventions are likely to pay significant dividends in better long-term outcomes in learning, health, and parenting of the next generation.


This information shared via the Center on the Developing Child, whose mission is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. More info at: developingchild.harvard.edu