Factors influencing public perceptions of child neglect: A mixed methods study

Jessica Keeley, Vincent O. Mancini, Emily Castell, Lauren J. Breen

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Background: More than 1 in 5 children experience neglect, exposing them to several adverse consequences. Children with intellectual disability experience additional neglect related challenges. Public perceptions significantly influence the identification, intervention, and prevention of child neglect. Objective: This study applied a mixed methods approach exploring public perceptions of four subtypes of child neglect (lack of supervision, failure to provide, emotional, and educational neglect), associations with key demographic factors (age, gender, parental status, and contact with people with intellectual disability), and victim-survivor intellectual disability. Participants and Setting: The final sample of 399 Australian participants (48.87% female, M = 38.93 years, SD = 12.72 years) completed an online questionnaire and were recruited via Prolific. Methods: Participants rated 10 potential neglect scenarios on the degree of neglect severity, perpetrator and victim-survivor responsibility, likelihood of victim-survivor mental and physical health outcomes, and perpetrator intention. Five-short answer questions allowed for elaboration of participant perspectives. Results: Multiple Factorial Analysis of Variance found that the child's intellectual disability had no bearing on perceptions of neglect, but participant gender was influential with women rating neglect as more severe than men. Lack of supervision was rated the most severe subtype of neglect and lack of providing as the least. Qualitative responses described the context of neglect as important. Conclusions: The public may understand neglect as abhorrent irrespective of whether the child has intellectual disability and may be less recognizable to men than women. The public tends to consider the families financial situation when evaluating neglectful situations. © 2023 The Author(s)
Original languageEnglish
Article number107154
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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