Deprivation during Child Development

Deprivation refers to the insufficency or absence of what is necessary for development or for life itself.

OLD THINKING:  DEPRIVATION was previously categorized as "neglect"  
which was typically observed in homes with a chaotic environment, inadequate clothing, food, etc. often asssociated with poverty.

CURRENT THINKING:  Deprivation is now understood as a much deeper, pervasive trauma that occurs during early life or critical developmental periods and results in delayed or abnormal development of Brain  Networks  (Developmental Trauma).  Deprivation-Neglect impairs growth, development and overall health - with lifelong impact.

Deprivation can occur in ANY home, regardless of income level - and is often intertwined with intergenerational trauma - and unintentionally distracted caregivers.  Deprivation may be associated with interpersonal victimization - but occurs often in homes without overt violence.

Deprivation is very likely to occur for children in foster care or institutional care - especially if moved from one foster care placement to another.

o   Inadequate attentive care, touch, and co-regulation during child development
o   Disruption in Parent-Child Attunement and Attachment
o   Child Maltreatment – Interpersonal Victimization (physical, emotional, sexual abuse)
o   Chaotic Home Environment; Family Violence

 o   Abnormal changes in the struction and function of the brain
 o   Severe separation anxiety
 o   Loss of trust - of family members, other people, public agencies (police, healthcare, etc)
 o   Dissociation
 o   Negative self-image
 o   Risk of self-harm or suicide
 o   Expecting to die early (foreshortened sense of future)
 o   Difficulty  in protecting oneself including challenges in assessing other people and their motives - often leading to re-victimization


Science of Neglect from Harvard's Center on the Developing Child2012
Working Paper:  How the persistent absence of responsive care disrupts the Developing Brain.
Superb resource showing why deprivation-neglect are the most prevalent type of childhood adversity and a greater risk to development than typical ideas of abuse.  Also describes why timely intervention is vital.

Mackes (2020) Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment.  PNAS
Study of early life deprivation showed alterations in global and regional brain volume with associated lower intelligence and higher prevalence of attention, cognitive and behavior problems.  These structural and functional changes persist into adulthood, despite environmental enrichment in intervening years.

Milner and Kelly (2020). It's time to Stop Confusing Poverty with Neglect.  Children's Bureau Express.   Although it is well known that child abuse and neglect occur across all economic strate, adversity in childhood is not reported or handled equally or proportionally across strata.  Calls for meaningfully confronting and addressing the role that poverty plays in child welfare decision-making.