The Effects of Poor Parental Care on a Child's Development

Your consistent, loving care shapes your little one’s amazing developmental journey. Parents who embrace the role of parenting with enthusiasm enable children to acquire skills that maximize their life potential. Poor parental care impacts the rapid growth and change that occurs in the developing child from infancy to adolescence with long-term negative consequences 1.


Physical growth and development occurs at an astonishing pace in early childhood, with poor nutrition presenting a risk for impaired physical development in the young child’s growing body. For example, children who do not receive sufficient iron in their diet may exhibit problems in reaching cognitive and motor milestones, as well as problems with anxiety, depression and social skills, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Stunted physical growth and less efficient transmission of neural signals in the brain may result when parents fail to provide adequate nutrition.

Reaching Milestones

Children need stimulation from their parents in the form of praise, hugs and motivation to achieve developmental milestones. Parental apathy exists when parents do not demonstrate an interest or invest time in their child’s developmental progress. Neglected children exhibit delays in language, physical, cognitive and social development, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway 2. Children build a positive self-concept and validate a secure attachment to parents when mom or dad cheers their efforts to complete potty training, balance on one foot and share a toy.

Insecure Attachment

An infant’s or child’s attachment is the ongoing bond or relationship that exists between the parent and child 2. The developing child who forms a secure attachment feels safe, knows that her needs will be met, and receives support with the challenging task of learning to self-regulate her emotions. A secure attachment functions as a security blanket that frees the child to direct attention to the equally challenging tasks of learning new skills and investigating her environment 2. Parents who are inattentive, unpredictable or not present jeopardize the development of a secure attachment by not permitting their infant to feel protected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Brain Development

Short-lived episodes of stress are not usually detrimental to a child's growth, and they may help the child learn how to adapt and respond to stressors in the future. Parents function as barriers between their children and the more harmful forms of stress 1. However, when parents do not shield their children from erratic, chronic or harsh forms of stress, these stressors modify the developing child’s brain. The results of this damage, according to children’s development website Zero to Three, include:

  • long-term challenges related to academic success
  • behavioral
  • physical
  • psychological problems

When children live in a consistently dangerous environment, the brain focuses more on survival, and less on abstract thought.

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