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Troubled Teens: A study of the links between parenting and adolescent neglect

Policy and practice briefing

Child neglect has become topical in recent years with the creation of new policy and practice initiatives, including parenting support for families with pre-school-aged children as part of early intervention services. There is now a widespread acceptance that poor parental care of younger children limits life chances and is bad for society in the long term.

Parental neglect of adolescents has, by contrast, remained low on the agenda. Although it is generally accepted that raising adolescents is a test of parenting skills, there is little formal support available and a lack of sympathy for those who may struggle with its complex demands – especially if their children become problematic for society (eg by becoming involved in crime or anti-social behaviour).

The new research summarised in this briefing provides evidence that:

  • parenting adolescents is challenging, and this can be exacerbated by household circumstances, including by deprivation
  • adolescents’ problem behaviours – and the personal issues they face – may often be linked to neglect
  • neglect of adolescents is more commonplace than might be expected
  • adolescent neglect is poorly responded to, partly because of incorrect assumptions that teenagers are naturally resilient and because safeguarding responses do not differentiate between younger and older children.

The implication of this is that understanding of the needs of adolescent children should be promoted widely and more support should be offered to families with older children, and that adolescent neglect should be taken seriously and better responded to.