Examination of a Conceptual Model of Child Neglect
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This study attempted to provide empirical support for conceptual definitions of child neglect. We identified 12 types of needs, conceptualizing neglect as occurring when children's basic needs are not adequately met. We examined measures administered to 377 children and caregivers at ages 4 and 6 years participating in longitudinal studies on child mal-treatment to identify potential indicators of these needs. Indicators were found for latent constructs, operationalizing three of the basic needs (emotional support and/or affection, protection from family conflict and/or violence, and from community violence). These latent constructs were used in a measurement model; this supported the conceptual definitions of neglect. A structural equation model then assessed whether the latent constructs were associated with child adjustment at age 8 years. Low level of perceived support from mother was associated with internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Exposure to family conflict was also linked to these problems, and to social difficulties. Finally, children's sense of experiencing little early affection was associated with subsequent externalizing behavior and social problems. The approach of conceptualizing neglect in terms of unmet child needs, developing a measurement model to define latent neglect constructs, and relating these constructs to subsequent adjustment can build our understanding of neglect.
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