Emotional Neglect, also known as Psychological Neglect, refers to a situation where a parent or caregiver does not provide the basic emotional care, attention and affection that a child needs in order to develop proper emotional well-being.
Emotional neglect is distinctly different from emotional abuse, in that it involves emotional omissions, rather that direct actions that negatively affect a child's emotional health. In other words, emotional neglect refers to something that is not provided, or withheld, that is deemed necessary for a child's emotional and psychological health.
Examples of emotional neglect would include:
refusing a child physical affection, or refusing to touch them
refusing to listen to a child when they have something important to share
not showing kindness or tenderness / being "cold" and emotionally unavailable
not acknowledging a child's feelings and emotions
Effects of Emotional Neglect in Children
Children who grow up in an "emotional vacuum", where their parent are too busy, or struggle with their own emotional problems, are less likely to develop into emotionally well-rounded adults. This means that they are also less likely to develop effective coping mechanisms for stress, are more likely to struggle with intimacy in relationships, and will probably suffer from a deep sense of loneliness that can persist for their whole lives.
Emotionally neglected children tend to manifest their lack of emotional fulfillment in a variety of ways, that could include depression, anxiety, neediness, emotional disconnection, low self-esteem, difficulty in coping with stress and anger, inability to recognize emotions in others, and struggles with sharing their feelings.
Common signs and symptoms of emotional neglect in children include persistent feelings of loneliness, or unworthiness, being overly affectionate toward people they hardly know, being emotionally isolated from their peers or parents, lacking in social skills, and inability to control strong emotions like fear or anger.
Is Emotional Neglect Against The Law?
Emotional neglect, just like , is not against the law. However, in cases where the emotional neglect is severe enough that it hampers a child's ability to function properly and reach normal developmental milestones, there may be legal repercussions.
Most experts will agree that emotional child abuse or neglect has a direct negative impact on a child's psyche. For this reason, it can be safely assumed that "emotional" and "mental" abuse are likely to be viewed as being the same thing in the eyes of the law. This is an important distinction to make, because while the Michigan penal code doesn't specify that emotional child abuse is illegal, the legal description of child abuse does include references to "mental harm".
First Degree Child Abuse, which is a felony punishable by up to life in prison, is described in the Michigan penal code as "a person knowingly or intentionally causing serious physical or serious mental harm to a child."
The penal code also describes Serious Mental Harm as "an injury to a child's mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent, but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life."
So in this way, severe emotional neglect, which causes a child to suffer emotional trauma and exhibit damaged mental health, is something that could result in charges against the parent. Similarly, if CPS received a report that a child was being emotionally neglected, they may investigate to determine if the child is suffering as a result of the alleged neglect, and if so, take steps to enforce correction.
Defense Against Allegations of Emotional Neglect
At Kronzek & Cronkright, we have years of experience fighting allegations of abuse and neglect. Whether you are battling CPS or facing a police investigation, if you or a loved one have been accused of abusing or neglecting a child, you are going to need experienced attorneys on your side. Call us today. We are here to help you.