Thresholds for Intervention in Child Neglect by Ordinary Citizens: Implications for Measuring Informal Social Control of Child Neglect

Alhassan Abdullah

There is growing attention towards neighbourhood and contextual approaches to address and prevent child maltreatment. However, research into neighbour’s protective intervention (protective informal social control) in child neglect has seen little attention. Even amongst the limited research, the findings have not been consistent. The limited research on the subject is partly explained by the contested issue, which centres on the question; how do neighbours witness and intervene in non-aggressive forms of maltreatment, such as neglect? This article aimed to contribute to address this question by exploring thresholds in child neglect amongst ordinary residents. It draws on narrative interviews with seventeen female parents from seven settlements in Ghana. Severity of neglect, consistent exposure and poor parental capacity were key threshold measures reported. It emerged that threshold criteria (high or low) vary based on the subtypes of neglect. Whilst medical and supervisory neglect attracts low threshold criteria, more than one-time exposure is required to meet threshold in food neglect. The findings contrast the uncritical approach of lumping up subtypes of neglect. Instead, it advocates for the development of a context-based measure for protective informal social control of neglect that accounts for subtype effects. Such development should follow an item response theory approach.