The Family Center - News & Resources

What is Emotional Neglect?

Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act.  In some ways it is the opposite of mistreatment and abuse.   It’s a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings.  Emotional neglect is one of the 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Because it’s mostly silent and invisible, childhood emotional neglect is largely an overlooked phenomenon in mental health.  Unlike physical abuse or neglect where there are signs such as bruises or children coming to school underfed, emotional neglect is hard to identify as there are frequently no observable signs. More importantly, emotional neglect is generally unrecognized by the child until symptoms begin to appear in adulthood.

Emotional neglect can take many forms, from a parent withholding affection, having unrealistically high expectations, or not listening attentively, to invalidating a child’s emotional experiences to the point he or she begins to doubt themselves.   When a parent is not emotionally present to a child, there is no positive reflection being shared with the child. Developing a positive sense of self then, becomes more challenging for the child.

–Dr. Jonice Webb