The construction of child neglect in English-speaking countries: Children, risk and poor families

The construction of child neglect in English-speaking countries: Children, risk and poor families

Parental neglect is a major reason, in English-speaking countries, for the removal of children from their parents. The connection between child removal, neglect and poverty has historically always been a factor in policies on neglected children. This article is an historical analysis of the association between interventions for neglect and attitudes to poverty in English speaking countries, with reference to specific countries by way of illustration. The focus is on the dominant discourse associated with state (and philanthropic agency) policies and interventions for child neglect, and more recently with policies for emotional neglect/abuse. I identify how this discourse has been based on an ideology highlighting the capitalist work ethic and the goal of productivity. When policies incorporating this ideology, have targeted families for interventions for neglect, they have typically abstracted, conceptually, the children in these families from the social, economic and cultural factors that impinge on their day-to-day lives. This process has been connected with the construction of children as becoming adults, subsumed within families for instrumental purposes. Interest groups of the elite, whether philanthropic reformers or scientific and social scientist experts, have targeted children as becoming adults and/or investments for the future. I conclude that if the contemporary shift in paradigms from child welfare to child well-being is to contribute significantly to policies and practices for improving the lives of children vulnerable to neglect, it will need to give weight to an alternate discourse identifying the significance of structural issues, in terms of children's socio-economic and generational locations.

JOURNAL: Children and Youth Services Review
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017