Extensive biological and developmental research shows significant neglect—the ongoing disruption or significant absence of caregiver responsiveness—can cause more harm to a young child’s development than overt physical abuse, including subsequent cognitive delays, impairments in executive functioning, and disruptions of the body’s stress response.
This video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explains why significant deprivation is so harmful in the earliest years of life and why effective interventions are likely to pay significant dividends in better long-term outcomes in learning, health, and parenting of the next generation.
The related working paper states that
The building blocks of thriving communities and well-functioning societies rest on the health and development of their people. Beginning immediately after birth, a strong foundation for human well-being requires responsive environments and supportive relationships to build sturdy brain circuits, facilitate emerging capabilities, and strengthen the roots of physical and mental health. Through mutually rewarding, “serve and return” interactions with the adults who care for them, young children are both initiators and respondents in this ongoing process. These reciprocal and dynamic interactions are essential for healthy development and literally shape the architecture of the developing brain.
Read the Science of Neglect working paper from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.