The global challenge of the neglect of children

Julia M. Kobulsky, Howard Dubowitz, Yanfeng Xu - Child Abuse & Neglect



The neglect of children is a serious global problem. The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was a major international achievement spurring national efforts to prevent and address neglect. However, the scope of neglect worldwide and progress in addressing it remain unclear.


This analysis assessed the current state of child neglect through much of the world, including its prevalence and efforts to address it.


The scope of neglect was assessed through a literature review of recent peer-reviewed research and analysis of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) child protective services (CPS) and early childhood development data. National responses to neglect in 73 countries were described in the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s World Perspectives 2016 data and through illustrative case studies of recent CRC country reports for Australia, China, India and Mozambique.


Neglect is prevalent throughout the world, although its extent and form vary. Most countries recognize neglect as a form of maltreatment and have basic CPS policies and some system in place, but implementation of prevention and intervention services remains inadequate even in high-income countries. Economic and other barriers inhibit progress to address the neglect of children.


Progress has been made in establishing basic child protections and other safeguards for neglect in most countries, but significant barriers and inadequacies remain. Implementation of the CRC is uneven and there are large gaps in needed services. Much work remains to better assess and address this serious problem, in every country.