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Child Neglect – minutes or months?

Filed under: General — MurrayBacon @ 3:28 pm Thu 26th July 2012

In NZ, the public discourse is about obvious child neglect or serious injury done in a minute and the more subtle emotional neglect, which injures children over weeks and months is neglected in the public debate.

This longer term damage by emotional neglect, affects many, many more children, probably over 10,000.
It cannot be seen in bruises, it cannot be picked up as a child left unattended for a few minutes or hours. Diagnosing emotional neglect is not straightforward.
It occurs when the caregivers fail to attend or respond to the child, many times per hour and fails to provide the child with other appropriate stimulations, month after month. Contact with other children and adults is essential. Multiple relationships protects the child’s development, even if the day to day caregiver isn’t particularly competent.

Rather than diagnosing incompetent parents, isn’t it better to warn them, before they are out of their depth?

The present public debate, over 10 or 20 children per year, is just a feel-good by putting someone else down. This debate is carried on by insecure, maybe incompetent parents, who can only feel good by belittling other parents. I am not saying forget about children beaten to death, but lets not be distracted by debating over these serious injuries and forget to respond appropriately to emotionally neglected children. Lets attend to injury and emotional neglect in proportion to their numbers and the seriousness. Broken bones usually heal in 6 weeks, emotional neglect often heals in 25 to 40 years.

The present public debate about serious violence injuries, is just a smokescreen to keep the featherbrains in familycaught$ awarding custody to mothers, irrespective of their actual parenting skills. In my opinion, a competent parent would rarely ever want to exclude the other parent. (It is always best to be able to share the blame!) Any parent who wants to exclude the other parent, unless there is some real hazard, is the hazard themself.

Incompetent parents don’t know what it is they don’t know. (Of course the same goes for incompetent familycaught$ judges, incompetent at child protection.)
There is no point in blaming and putting down these parents, as it almost always isn’t really their fault. Most have been emotionally neglected in their babyhood years. Another too common cause of lack of competence, is substance addiction.

As a country, we should make sure that children learn about taking care of babies and children, before they reach puberty. With smaller family sizes, this is not so easy to achieve.

Even more important, before children reach puberty, they should have had enough experience taking care of little children, to know whether they are up to the task. They won’t like being told, so I guess it needs to be done experientially. This should lead to parents who lack body language emotional reading skills making their own choice to avoid parenthood.

Taking care of a baby or children on your own, is much harder than in a partnership. By providing DPB no questions asked, no skills tested, we are financially incentivising dangerous parenting. We reap what we sow, rather cruelly really.

Many young girls who end up pregnant risk being quite hazardous sole parents.
Is it their fault, or are we driving this dynamic by carelessly funding unskilled parents, who cannot get jobs?

Lets get the public discourse to look at the quality of parenting our children are receiving.
When we do this, we may find that a substantial number of mothers and fathers are not adequate. In some cases, assistance and training may be given and taken up. Unfortunately, quite a number of parents cannot be helped, as their communication problems are deep seated and not easily able to be helped. The difficulty to help these parents, lies in their own deprived childhoods. (NZ Brainwave Trust has a public education programme pushing for better protection of babies.)

It is essential that as a society we act to protect children from these parents.
The existing familycaught$ fails to protect children, as it’s understanding of parent-child interactions is about 75 years out of date. Although their is the ocassional legal conference paper about child neglect, these rarely transfer into action that satisfactorily protects children.

For positive change, fathers must learn more about child development and mental health impacts onto parenting skills and be able to argue these in familycaught$.
It is no pleasure to draw attention to these issues relating to your own spouse, that you chose to have children with.

However, until we warn children before puberty about their parenting skills, then we will continue to have to rescue children from less competent parents. This is not pleasant work.

Separation significantly increases the risks to children’s development. We must warn parents before separation, what the likely effect on their children would be, if they proceed to separate. If parents knew that by separating their children would be ok, or would be at greatly increased risk, then surely this is information we should give parents before they make their decision to separate?

Fathers, if perchance the mother of your children turns out to have parenting problems, are you willing to step in and serve this need yourself?

Mother to reappear in court over child neglect charge
NewstalkZB | 12:52pm Thu 26 Jul 2012
A Wairarapa mother, whose child was found wandering alone down a highway, has made a brief appearance in the Masterton District Court.

The woman faces one charge of neglecting a child after her three-year-old daughter was found walking along the side of the road in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The 27-year-old woman told police she had left the girl at home alone for two hours while she visited friends.

She’s been remanded without plea and will reappear next month.
Another similar media article – Babies make up half of abuse cases
Social deprivation hurts child brain development, study finds
Jul 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Children who grow up in institutions instead of with families have major deficits in brain development, a study of Romanian orphans has shown.

The findings, published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, underscore the importance of an enriched environment during infancy and childhood and may help explain the increased rates of depression and anxiety disorders known to exist among institutionalized children.

The report comes from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, which has been following 136 Romanian orphans for 12 years, ever since the children were infants. The project is unique because it is the first to randomly assign children either to foster care or to the institutional care of orphanages.

Such randomization — ethically possible because all the children would otherwise have remained in institutions — has allowed the scientists to ensure that other factors, such as physical appearance or personality, did not affect whether children were chosen to join a family or remained in an institution.

Researchers at Harvard University, the University of Maryland and Tulane University worked with Romanian authorities to place half the children with families that had been rigorously vetted to ensure they would provide good homes. Since that time, most of these children have remained with their foster families. Children living with their biological families have served as a control group.

The team has published almost 50 research papers since the project began, showing that the orphans who remained in institutions have significantly more behavioral and neurological deficits than those who went to families: At age 4 1/2, more than 40 percent had anxiety disorders and 4 percent had major depressive disorders. Many also exhibited signs of autism such as “stereotypies,” repetitive behaviors such as rocking and arm-flapping.

In the new study, the team scanned the brains of 74 of the Bucharest children, now ages 8 to 11, using magnetic resonance imaging.

What they found was striking: Brains of children who had remained in institutions had less white matter — the type of tissue that connects different regions of the brain — than orphans who were placed in foster care or children living with their own families.

Reductions in white matter have been found in numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Study senior author Charles Nelson, a developmental neuroscientist at Children’s Hospital Boston, said the white-matter changes were likely related to a difference that the scientists had noticed earlier in the project: Children in institutions had less electrical activity in their brains — specifically, a kind known as “alpha power” — than those who had gone to foster homes.

“If a normal kid is like a 100-watt light bulb, these kids were a 40-watt light bulb,” Nelson said.

The observed brain differences seem to parallel some of the behavioral differences seen in the different groups of children — notably, higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders in kids who remained in institutions, Nelson said.

But the placements — the children went to families when they were 6 to 31 months old — did not wipe away all problems. Though the children with families were doing better than the children left in institutions, brains of both groups remained far from normal, Nelson said, with less gray matter than children who had been with families all along. Both groups also had significantly higher rates of ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder.

Perhaps, Nelson said, the children were placed in homes too late in life; deprivations they experienced before that time were profound. Children in the orphanages are often left in rooms by themselves for hours at a time with nothing to look at or play with.

“The brain needs stimulation to grow and develop, and we know the Romanian orphans are not getting that stimulation,” Nelson said.

The findings underscore both the potential for recovery from early-life isolation and the devastating reach social deprivation can have even if experienced only for the first few years of life, Nelson said.

Dr. Daniel Geschwind, an autism expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study, said the new report is “fundamental and foundational because it identifies clear structural abnormalities in the brains of these kids. Now we can ask ‘Why?’ What is it about these environments that alters brain structure and function?”

But even without that knowledge in hand, the findings should make U.S. child-welfare officials sit up and pay attention, Geschwind said.

“There’s oodles and oodles of information and data that points to really clear and obvious policy implications: (The) kind of environment a child has from zero to 3 and 3 to 5 is fundamental to their future,” he said.

(c)2012 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at

Distributed by MCT Information Services


  1. The comments above, about damage to children’s brains, resulting from growing up neglected in institutions – also apply to children growing up in homes where they are neglected by their parents.

    This situation is particularly dangerous to babies growing up in absence of father and mother is uninterested or depressed and not responding to her baby’s communications. This risk is greatest in the households of young solo mothers. Depression is the most common illness in young parents. Depression in caregivers, is the most hazardous parental mental illness to babies. It is significantly hazardous, even at levels below the formal diagnosis level (thus little help is presently made available…).

    If the father is present, even if only for evenings and weekends, this alternative parental relationship can provide a large degree of protection from the mother’s lack of responding to the baby.

    If the father has been deleted completely from the life of the child, then the child is denied this important degree of developmental protection. This is why the Care of Children Act 2004 “protects” a child’s right to have a meaningful and protective relationship with both parents.

    Parents can usually complement each other’s skills, resources and lacks of skills. When separated, the child is generally left in a more hazardous situation. The familycaught$ seems to do leave children in more hazardous situations, than they were originally, most of the time?

    The failure=refusal of familycaught$ to honour this legislation, costs NZ several billion$ per year, in prisons, costs of crime, caughts, police, bungled prosecutions, prosecuting the wrong individuals…….

    This is why it is so “funny” to see judge clarkson parading as a rescuer of endangered children!!!

    As with all marketing advertising, it is important that consumers are aware of the reality and make their own well informed decisions about whether they wish to use their hard earned money to buy the advertised services?

    Cheers, MurrayBacon – axe murderer.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Sat 15th December 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  2. Parents in court charged with neglect
    NewstalkZB | 06:25am Fri 11 Jan 2013
    The parents of four young Lower Hutt children are appearing in court today charged with neglect.

    They each face four charges of neglect, one relating to each child.

    It comes after police went to a Lower Hutt property a week ago after reports of disorder.

    Detective Sergeant Emma Foote says the four children, aged between seven-months and four-years-old, are being looked after by Child, Youth and Family.

    She says the arrests were made possible through sharing of information.

    Are we looking for the right things?

    Observe how the attention of the police was drawn by complaints of disorder. Babies don’t make a lot of noise, so attention must have been drawn by the older children.

    The Wikipedia article on child neglect illustrates that the greatest damage is done to babies, by emotional and physical neglect. Of course this damage was complete for the older children and almost so for the toddler too.

    So the police have rescued these children, years too late. Having 4 children so close in age, is itself a warning sign of possible poor parenting skills.

    We should be removing children from parents who cannot take satisfactory care of children at birth, rather than allowing them to proceed to damage the children. The flow on costs to society, of damaged children is huge – victims of crime, assaults, police, caughts, jails….

    Child neglect, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Effects of child neglect can differ depending on the individual and how much treatment is provided, but generally speaking child neglect that occurs in the first two years of a child’s life may be more of an important precursor of childhood aggression compared to later neglect, which may not have as strong a correlation. Children who suffer from neglect most often also have attachment difficulties, cognitive deficits, emotional/ behavioral problems, and physical consequences as a result of neglect. Early neglect has the potential to modify the body’s stress response, specifically cortisol levels (stress hormones) which can cause abnormalities and alter the body’s overall health. Research has shown that there is a relationship between neglect and disturbed patterns of infant-caretaker attachment. If parents lack sensitivity to their baby’s needs, the baby will develop insecure-anxious attachment. The neglectful behavior the child experiences will contribute to their attachment difficulties and formation of relationships in the future, or lack thereof. In addition to biological and social effects, neglect affects intellectual ability and cognitive/academic deficits. Also, children who suffer from child neglect may also suffer from anxiety or impulse-control disorders. Another result of child neglect is what people call ‘failure to thrive’. Infants who have deficits in growth and abnormal behaviors such as withdrawal, apathy and excessive sleep are failing to thrive, rather than developing to become ‘healthy’ individuals (Barnett et al., p 86).
    A study by Robert Wilson, a professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and his colleagues, showed for the first time that children under the age of 18 when they were moderately neglected in some manner by their caregivers had a 3 times likely risk of stroke over those with moderately low levels, after controlling for some common risk factors (they interviewed 1,040 participants ages 55 or older; after 3 1/2 years, 257 of them died and 192 were autopsied, with 89 having stroke evidence upon autopsy and another 40 had a history of it). Neglect, bullying, and abuse have previously been linked to changes in the brain’s grey matter and white matter and to accelerated aging. For further information, please see the link to the online news story article on the study, from the Health VITALS blog, by unnamed LiveScience staff.[40]

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Fri 11th January 2013 @ 7:23 am

  3. The four children and others at the home were removed from their parents’ care the same day in an “emergency uplift” and a joint operation involving CYF was launched, police said.


    Sounds like a bit of a mess. The children couldn’t even graze at the refrigerator?

    If the woman gets a lawyer the Family Court will overrule CYFS and give HER kids back – they’ve done it before.

    Comment by Down Under — Fri 11th January 2013 @ 10:06 am

  4. Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills recalls delivering prescriptions for his pharmacist dad in impoverished Napier suburbs as a young lad.


    This is an interesting reflection on his past. Try telling a child he has to work for his pocket money these days or even help his father. The State has to protect children from that sort of abuse.

    Comment by Down Under — Sat 12th January 2013 @ 8:26 am

  5. The story develops

    It would be interesting to do a cost analysis on the process. Looking at all the people involved from the Police, Cyfs, Family Court (temporary custody), hospital and medical treatment, prison costs for the parent’s incarceration, legal aid for the parents, then the ongoing costs of the care for children whose parents no longer support them.

    Then we see the real costs of feminism.

    Comment by Down Under — Sat 12th January 2013 @ 10:01 am

  6. That story only wants to add to the nanny state, NZ cannot afford any more spending.

    Comment by Too Tired — Sat 12th January 2013 @ 9:04 pm


    Comment by MurrayBacon — Thu 13th February 2014 @ 4:23 pm

  8. AIFS Australian Institute of Family Studies has published three very good introduction papers to child neglect:

    Rarely an isolated incident: Acknowledging the interrelatedness of child maltreatment, victimisation and trauma

    Effects of child abuse and neglect for children and adolescents

    Effects of child abuse and neglect for adult survivors

    The Centre for the Developing Child Harvard University has published:

    WORKING PAPER #12 The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain

    There are several more relevant articles on the Working Papers page.

    Although familycaught$ and CYFs may act as a barrier to father involvement, if fathers have a better understanding of the possibilities of child neglect, they will be more motivated to protect their children, despite the anti-encouragement of familycaught$. Fathers must work to protect their children, despite familycaught$ and CYFs.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Mon 10th March 2014 @ 1:14 pm

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