The Effects of Early Neglect on Cognitive, Language, and Behavioral Functioning in Childhood

DOI: 10.4236/psych.2012.32026   PDF   HTML     10,431 Downloads   23,197 Views   Citations


Objectives: Few studies have explored the impact of different types of neglect on children’s development. Measures of cognition, language, behavior, and parenting stress were used to explore differences between children experiencing various forms of neglect, as well as to compare children with and without a history of early neglect. Methods: Children, ages 3 to 10 years with a history of familial neglect (USN), were compared to children with a history of institutional rearing (IA) and children without a history of neglect using the Differential Abilities Scale, Test of Early Language Development, Child Behavior Checklist, and Parenting Stress Index. Factors predicting child functioning were also explored. Results: Compared with youth that were not neglected, children with a history of USN and IA demonstrated lower cognitive and language scores and more behavioral problems. Both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were most common in the USN group. Externalizing behavior problems predicted parenting stress. Higher IQ could be predicted by language scores and an absence of externalizing behavior problems. When comparing the two neglect groups, shorter time spent in a stable environment, lower scores on language skills, and the presence of externalizing behavior predicted lower IQ. Conclusion: These findings emphasize the importance of early stable, permanent placement of children who have been in neglectful and pre-adoptive international settings. While an enriching environment may promote resilience, children who have experienced early neglect are vulnerable to cognitive, language and behavioral deficits and neurodevelopmental and behavioral evaluations are required to identify those in need of intervention.

Share and Cite:

Spratt, E. , Friedenberg, S. , LaRosa, A. , Bellis, M. , Macias, M. , Summer, A. , Hulsey, T. , Runyan, D. & Brady, K. (2012). The Effects of Early Neglect on Cognitive, Language, and Behavioral Functioning in Childhood. Psychology, 3, 175-182. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.32026.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Child Welfare Information Gateway (2009). Strengthening families and communities: 2009 resource guide. US Department of Health and Human Services.
[2] Cahill, L. T., Kaminer, R. K., & Johnson, P. G. (1999). Developmental cognitive and behavioral sequelae of child abuse. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 8, 827-843.
[3] Pynoos, R., Steinberg, A. M., & Wraith, R. (1995). A developmental model of childhood traumatic stress. In D, Cicchetti, & J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental Psychopathology (pp. 72-95). New York: John Wiley and Sons.
[4] Zeanah, C. H., Smyke, A. T., & Dumitrescu, A. (2002). Attachment disturbances in young children. II: Indiscriminate behavior and institutional care. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 983-989. doi:10.1097/00004583-200208000-00017
[5] Munakata, Y., Casey, B. J., & Diamond, A. (2004). Developmental cognitive neuroscience: Progress and potential. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 122-128. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2004.01.005
[6] Perry, B. D. (2001). The neuroarcheology of childhood maltreatment: The neurodevelopmental costs of adverse childhood events. In: B. Geffner (Ed.), The cost of child maltreatment: Who pays? We all do. San Diego: Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute.
[7] Perry, B. D., Pollard, R. A., Blakley, T. L., et al. (1995). Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation, and “use-dependent” development of the brain: How “states” become “traits”. Infant Mental Health Journal, 16, 271-291. doi:10.1002/1097-0355(199524)16:4<271::AID-IMHJ2280160404>3.0.CO;2-B
[8] Pollak, S., Cicchetti, D., Klorman, R., et al. (1997). Cognitive brain event-related potentials and emotion processing in maltreated children. Child Development, 68, 773-787. doi:10.2307/1132032
[9] Wismer, F. A., Shirtcliff, E., & Pollak, S. (2008). Neuroendocrine dysregulation following early social deprivation in children. Developmental Psychobiology, 50, 588-599. doi:10.1002/dev.20319
[10] Eckenrode, J., Laird, M., & Doris, J. (2005). School performance and disciplinary problems among abused and neglected children. Developmental Psychology, 29, 53-62. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.29.1.53
[11] Pears, K., & Fisher, P. A. (2005). Developmental, cognitive, and neuropsychological functioning in preschool-aged foster children: Associations with prior maltreatment and placement history. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 26, 112-122. doi:10.1097/00004703-200504000-00006
[12] Prasad, M. R., Kramer, L. A., & Ewing-Cobbs, L. (2005). Cognitive and neuroimaging findings in physically abused preschoolers. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 90, 82-85. doi:10.1136/adc.2003.045583
[13] Lee, V., & Hoaken, P. N. S. (2007). Cognition, emotion, and neurobiological development: Mediating the relation between maltreatment and aggression. Child Maltreatment, 12, 281-298. doi:10.1177/1077559507303778
[14] Gardner, F. E. M. (1989). Inconsistent parenting: Is there evidence for a link with children’s conduct problems? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 17.
[15] O’Connor, T. G., Rutter, M., & ERA Study Team (2000). Attachment disorder behavior following early severe deprivation: Extenstion and longitudinal follow-up. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 703-712. doi:10.1097/00004583-200006000-00008
[16] Groark, C. J., Muhamedrahimov, R. J., Palmov, O. I., et al. (2005). Improvements in early care in Russian orphanages and their relationship to observed behaviors. Infant Mental Health Journal, 26, 96-109. doi:10.1002/imhj.20041
[17] Eisen, M. L., Goodman, G. S., Qin, J., et al. (2007). Maltreated children’s memory: Accuracy, suggestibility, and psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1275-1294. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1275
[18] Eigsti, I. M., & Cicchetti, D. (2004). The impact of child maltreatment on expressive syntax at 60 months. Developmental Science, 7, 88-102. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2004.00325.x
[19] Strathearn, L., Gray, P. H., & Wood, D. O. (2001). Childhood neglect and cognitive development in extremely low birth weight infants: A prospective study. Pediatrics, 108, 142-151. doi:10.1542/peds.108.1.142
[20] Nelson III, C. A., Zeanah, C. H., Fox, N. A., et al. (2007). Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: The Bucharest early intervention project. Science, 318, 1937-1940. doi:10.1126/science.1143921
[21] Gunnar, M. R. (2001). Effects of early deprivation: Findings from orphanage-reared infants and children. In: C. H. Nelson, & M. Luciana (Eds.), Handbook of developmental neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[22] Morison, S. J., Ames, A., & Chisholm, K. (1995). The development of children adopted from Romanian orphanages. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 41, 411.
[23] Rutter, M. (1998). Developmental catch-up, and deficit, following adoption after severe global early privation. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 39, 465. doi:10.1017/S0021963098002236
[24] Zeanah, C. H., Nelson, C. A., Fox, N. A., et al. (2003). Designing research to study the effects of institutionalization on brain and behavioral development: The Bucharest early intervention project. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 885-907. doi:10.1017/S0954579403000452
[25] Hildyard, K. L., & Wolfe, D. A. (2002). Child neglect: Developmental issues and outcomes [small star, filled]. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 679-695. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(02)00341-1
[26] Barnett, D., Manly, J. T., & Cicchetti, D. (1993). Defining child maltreatment: The interface between policy and research. In D. Cicchetti, & S. L. Toth (Eds.), Child abuse, child development, and social policy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
[27] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2000). 2000 CDC growth charts for the United States: Methods and development. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
[28] Elliott, C. D. (1990). Differential ability scales. In C. D. Elliott (Ed.), Administration and scoring manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
[29] Aylward, G. P. (1994). Practitioner’s guide to developmental and psychological testing. New York, London: Plenum Medical Book Company.
[30] Hresko, W., Reid, D., & Hammill, D. (1981). The test of early language development. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
[31] Hammill, D., & Newcomer, P. (2010). Speech and language assessments. URL (last checked 19August 2010).
[33] Achenbach, T. M. (1991). The child behavior checklist. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont.
[34] Abidin, R. R. (1990). Parenting stress index-short form. Charlottesville, VA: Pediatric Psychology Press.
[35] Kendall-Tackett, K. A., & Eckenrode, J. (1996). The effects of neglect on academic achievement and disciplinary problems: A developmental perspective. Child Abuse and Neglect, 20, 161-169. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(95)00139-5
[36] Culp, R. E., Watkins, R. V., Lawrence, H., et al. (1991). Maltreated children’s language and speech development: Abused, neglected, and abused and neglected. First Language, 11, 377-389. doi:10.1177/014272379101103305
[37] Im-Bolter, N., & Cohen, N. J. (2007). Language impairment and psychiatric comorbidities. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 54, 525- 542. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2007.02.008
[38] Kelly, J. F., Morisset, C. E., Barnard, K. E., et al. (1996). The influence of early mother-child interaction on preschool cognitive/linguistic outcomes in a high-social-risk group. Infant Mental Health Journal, 17, 310-321. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0355(199624)17:4<310::AID-IMHJ3>3.0.CO;2-Q
[39] Nicely, P., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., & Bornstein, M. H. (1999). Mothers’ attuned responses to infant affect expressivity promote earlier achievement of language milestones. Infant Behavior and Development, 22, 577-568. doi:10.1016/S0163-6383(00)00023-0
[40] Windsor, J., Glaze, L. E., Koga, S. F., et al. (2007). Language acquisition with limited input: Romanian institution and foster care. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 50, 1365-1381. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/095)
[41] Glennen, S. (2005). New arrivals: Speech and language assessment for internationally adopted infants and toddlers within the first months home. Seminars in Speech and Language, 26, 10-21. doi:10.1055/s-2005-864212
[42] Juffer, F., & Van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (2005). Behavior problems and mental health referrals of international adoptees: A meta-analysis. Jama, 293, 2501-2515. doi:10.1001/jama.293.20.2501
[43] Sedlak, A. J., & Broadhurst, D. D. (1996). Third national incidence study of child abuse and neglect. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.
[44] Parker, S. W., Greer, S., & Zuckerman, B. (1988). Double jeopardy: The impact of poverty on early child development. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 35, 1227.
[45] Heller, S. S., Larrieu, J. A., D’Imperio, R., & Boris, N. W. (1999). Research on resilience to child maltreatment: Empirical considerations. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 321-338. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(99)00007-1
[46] Dubowitz, H., Papas, M. A., Black, M. M., et al. (2002). Child neglect: Outcomes in high-risk urban preschoolers. Pediatrics, 109, 1100- 1107. doi:10.1542/peds.109.6.1100
[47] Noble, K., McCandliss, B., & Farah, M. (2007). Socioeconomic gradients predict individual differences in neurocognitive abilities. Developmental Science, 10, 464-480. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00600.x
[48] Spratt, E. G., Macias, M. M., & Saylor, C. F. (2007). Assessing parenting stress in multiple samples of children with special needs (CSN). Families, Systems, and Health, 25, 435-449. doi:10.1037/1091-7527.25.4.435
[49] Baker, B. L., Blacher, J., Crnic, K. A., et al. (2002). Behavior problems and parenting stress in families of three-year-old children with and without developmental delays. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 107, 433-444. doi:10.1352/0895-8017(2002)107<0433:BPAPSI>2.0.CO;2
[50] Johnston, C., Hessl, D., Blasey, C., et al. (2003). Factors associated with parenting stress in mothers of children with fragile X syndrome. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 24, 267-275. doi:10.1097/00004703-200308000-00008
[51] Ong, L. C., Chandran, V., & Boo, N. Y. (2001). Comparison of parenting stress between Malaysian mothers of four-year-old very low birthweight and normal birthweight children. Acta Paediatrica, 90, 1464-1469. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2001.tb01614.x
[52] Raina, P., O’Donnell, M., Rosenbaum, P., et al. (2005). The health and well-being of caregivers of children with cerebral palsy. Pediatrics, 115, 626-636. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-1689
[53] Hung, J., Wu, Y., & Yeh, C. (2004). Comparing stress levels of parents of children with cancer and parents of children with physical disabilities. Psycho-Oncology, 13, 898-903. doi:10.1002/pon.868
[54] Hartman, A. F., Radin, M. B., & McConnell, B. (1992). Parent-to- parent support: A critical component of health care services for families. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 15, 55-67. doi:10.3109/01460869209078240
[55] Taussig, H. N., Clyman, R. B., & Landsverk, J. (2001). Children who return home from foster care: A 6-year prospective study of behavioral health outcomes in adolescence. Pediatrics, 108, e10. doi:10.1542/peds.108.1.e10
[56] Rosnati, R., Montirosso, R., & Barni, D. (2008). Behavioral and emotional problems among Italian international adoptees and non- adopted children: Father’s and mother’s reports. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 541-549. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.22.3.541
[57] Beverly, B. L., McGuinness, T. M., & Blanton, D. J. (2008). Communication and academic challenges in early adolescence for children who have been adopted from the former Soviet Union. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 303-313. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/029)
[58] Sanchez, M. M., Noble, P. M., Lyon, C. K., et al. (2005). Alterations in diurnal cortisol rythm and acoustic startle response in nonhuman primates with adverse rearing. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 373-381. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.11.032
[59] Harlow, H. F., & Harlow, M. K. (1973). Social deprivation in monkeys. Readings from the scientific American: The nature and nurture of behavior. San Francisco: WH Freeman Co.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.