Is Your Partner A Neglectful Parent

Every parent struggles with trying to balance work obligations, family responsibility, chores and making time for each kid. Some days are seamless and other days can leave you winded. But being a little preoccupied or busy every now and then doesn’t make you a neglectful parent. A neglectful parent is defined by the American Psychology Association as unresponsive, unavailable, and rejecting. They tend to raise kids with low self-esteem and next to no self confidence. And as hard as this can be on the children, neglectful parenting doesn’t only affect them. Trying to be a parent alongside someone who clearly won’t do their part can be frustrating and lonely. It’s an experience that you must strive to avoid. It’s important to recognize right away that your partner is being neglectful towards the kids so that you can keep your kids from finding harmful new role models and build some sense of security with them. You can also start the process of building better parenting styles and strategies sooner. Here’s everything you need to know about dealing with a neglectful parent.

The Origins Of Neglectful Parenting

Neglectful parenting is not simply a description of bad child rearing practices, it is academically founded with a lot of research. At the University of California in Berkeley, psychologist Diana Baumrind observed several parents and formulated three different parenting styles that they all fell under. They were authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative, all based on the amount of care and demand that the parents showed their kids. This was in the 1960’s. But it wasn’t until 1983 that Stanford professors Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added neglectful parenting to Baumrind’s construct. They noted that this particular style of parenting included both a lack of demand for children and a lack of care.

How Can I Tell If My Partner Is A Neglectful Parent?

Sometimes it takes a while to realize what neglect really is and what it can look like. Neglect is when the physical and emotional needs of your child are not being met by your partner. And although it is easier to recognize when kids have been physically neglected, that is, when basic needs like food, clothing and shelter are not being met, it is equally important to recognize when your child’s emotional needs are being brushed aside. These basic emotional needs include a sense of security, trust, protection, play, stability, autonomy, freedom of expression coupled with healthy boundaries and limits. These needs not being met is a strong sign of parental neglect.

The first thing to ask yourself when contemplating if your partner is a neglectful parent is to what extent they are ignoring the needs of your child. And how this in turn affects your child’s behavior and development of child-concept. Does your partner constantly put their own wants and needs before those of their child? Does your child feel devalued, worthless and unimportant because of this behavior? If yes, you have your answer. Uninvolved parenting can also look drastically different depending on the age of the child. In the early months of childhood a lack of interest when it comes to feeding, comforting or even playing with the baby can be signs of neglectful parenting. This doesn’t mean that your partner is neglectful simply because they hate diaper duty. But if they’d rather pretend that the baby isn’t there to begin with, this is a problem. This can lead to them ignoring an older child when they are trying to speak or express themselves. They might skip doing extra curricular activities with them and fail to set appropriate limits and consequences. This too can be a sign of neglect.

What To Do When Your Partner Is A Neglectful Parent?

If things have already progressed too far and your partner refuses to listen to you no matter how much you try to reason with them, enlisting the services and help of a qualified mediator can make all the difference. This professional will have the knowledge and expertise to both diagnose neglect and facilitate healthy, non-accusatory conversation between the two parents. They will also be able to guide you and your partner through the steps to move from a detached parenting style to a more engaged way of interacting with your kids. The problem is that many people have kids without truly understanding all that goes into raising them. Cultivating your own emotional intelligence is the best way to ensure that you have the skillset it takes to be a good attentive parent.

Having a partner who is a neglectful parent can be hard on you and the kids and cause a lot of strain. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. With a little professional help and guidance, your partner can turn things around for the better!


1. Parenting Dimensions and Styles: A Brief History and Recommendations for Future Research, NCBI
2. Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept, NCBI

Was this article helpful?The following two tabs change content below. Kezia holds a deep interest in writing about women adapting to motherhood and childcare. She writes on several topics that help women navigate the joys and responsibilities of being a new mom and celebrate every stage of their baby’s development. When she is not writing for MomJunction, she sings in a classical Western choir and reads endlessly.more

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