What Is Uninvolved or Neglectful Parenting?

If you spend little time with your children, make few demands of them, and don't offer much affection, you're practicing neglectful parenting.
What Is Uninvolved or Neglectful Parenting?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 26 May, 2023

When we prepare for the arrival of a child, we anticipate some of the decisions we’ll have to make. For example, what their name will be, where they’ll sleep, or even which school we’d like them to attend. However, we often overlook a crucial aspect that will determine their future: The educational style we’ll use as parents. Today, we want to talk to you about uninvolved or neglectful parenting.

Neglectful parenting is usually the result of poor planning and a lack of information and support. It’s characteristic of parents who aren’t really involved with their children. They usually feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of their role and are absent both physically and emotionally. Keep reading to understand what this educational style consists of, what it’s due to, and what its consequences may be.

Understanding parenting styles

To understand this concept it’s necessary to go back to the work of Diana Baumrind. This psychologist, a specialist in child development, carried out important research in the 1970s. She decided to follow several families with children from preschool age to adolescence.

Her observations and findings made it clear that the behavior of children differed, from an early age, depending on the type of upbringing they received. Therefore, she described three main parenting models: Authoritarian, permissive, and democratic.

Later, Maccoby and Martin took up Baumrind’s model and reformulated it by adding one more style: Negligent. They also pointed out that all parenting styles are based on two pillars:

  1. The degree of affection/support offered by parents. This refers to the degree of love, approval, and acceptance and to how understanding and empathetic the parents are. Specifically, there are high degrees in the permissive and democratic styles, as well as low degrees in the authoritarian and neglectful styles.
  2. The level of control/supervision exercised by parents. This refers to how much parents direct the behavior of their children and how much they ensure that the rules they themselves establish are complied with. Therefore, we find high levels of control in the authoritarian and democratic styles and low levels in the negligent and permissive styles.
A girl showing a notebook to a man who's distracted by a cell phone.
Uninvolved or negligent parenting is that in which there’s little affection and few limits on the part of the parents.

Uninvolved or negligent parenting, what does it consist of?

In negligent parenting, the parents aren’t present, aren’t involved, and don’t take responsibility for their role. For the same reason, it’s common for these children to be raised with other people. Even in the most serious cases, there may be physical or emotional neglect or abuse.

But beyond this definition, let’s look at some practical examples of how this style of parenting manifests itself in day-to-day life:

  • Parents spend little time with their children. They prioritize work and other activities over family life and are hardly present in the children’s daily moments. In addition, communication with them is very scarce.
  • They don’t take responsibility for their children. This implies that they don’t invest the necessary dedication to teach, educate, or supervise them.
  • They don’t set limits or establish rules. However, this isn’t because they wish to parent freely, but because they’re unwilling or unable to exercise their role as caregivers.
  • They hardly express affection towards their children. They don’t offer support, understanding, or words of encouragement. On the contrary, they may address their children with rudeness, rejection, and irritation or simply be indifferent.
  • They try to meet their children’s emotional needs with material goods.
  • They delegate the responsibility of raising their children to other figures. For example, grandparents or teachers. In addition, they don’t take responsibility for their children’s behaviors.
  • They perceive children as a nuisance. Also, they experience parenting as exhausting and unsatisfying. Therefore, they feel overwhelmed by their role and don’t enjoy it.
  • They may use physical punishment as a disciplinary measure.

What are the consequences for children?

Each parenting style has its own characteristics and also generates its own set of consequences. In this regard, children who grow up under neglectful parenting are the most damaged, as they live in a confused and disorganized environment. Therefore, the consequences suffered by minors are presented both academically and in emotional health and behavioral problems.

Specifically, according to an article published in Familia, these children grow up with a strong sense of frustration that can lead to angry and aggressive behavior.

In addition, these children experience great insecurity and instability and are quite dependent on adults. This makes it difficult for them to relate to their peers and makes them more prone to delinquent or abusive behaviors. This is what Capano and Ubach suggest in their article published in Ciencias Psicológicas.

A small child curled up on a couch while their mother works in the background.
Children and adolescents with neglectful parenting, in general, don’t cooperate with others, aren’t very empathetic, and have poor social skills.

How to avoid falling into uninvolved or neglectful parenting?

The consequences of uninvolved parenting are serious and can seriously damage the development of a child. Therefore, we’d like to propose some key guidelines to avoid falling into this educational style:

  • Spending time with your child is necessary. Being present is at least half the job of being a mother, so you have to try to spend as much time with your children as you can. Of course, you have to work, take care of yourself, and cultivate your friendships, but you also need to find quality time every day to strengthen the bond with your little ones.
  • Take an interest in your children. Get involved with their hobbies, passions, desires, and fears. Talk to them often, listen to them, and participate in their favorite activities. That level of involvement will make all the difference.
  • Offer unconditional love and acceptance. Try to put yourself in your children’s shoes to understand them and show them with words, gestures, and actions that you love them and that you’re available to them.
  • Remember that limits are necessary, as they bring security and consistency to children’s lives. Therefore, establish clear and appropriate rules, according to the age of your little ones, and make sure they’re followed.

Work on yourself first

As a final recommendation, we’d like to invite you to analyze what may have influenced you to develop an uninvolved or negligent parenting style. If parenthood has come as a surprise, if you don’t feel prepared, if it’s harder than you expected, or if you can’ manage to enjoy it, you’ll hardly be able to parent with love and respect.

For this reason, it’s important that you work first on yourself and your life story. Therefore, you can seek professional accompaniment if you consider it necessary. Acquiring certain tools and new points of view can help you to put an end to the overwhelming feeling and dissatisfaction that lead you to be an uninvolved mother.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Baumrind, D. (1966). Efectos del control parental autoritario sobre el comportamiento infantil. Desarrollo infantil, 37 (4), 887–907. https://doi.org/10.2307/1126611
  • Capano, Á., & Ubach, A. (2013). Estilos parentales, parentalidad positiva y formación de padres. Ciencias psicológicas7(1), 83-95.
  • Ethier, L. S., Lacharite, C., & Couture, G. (1995). Childhood adversity, parental stress, and depression of negligent mothers. Child Abuse & Neglect19(5), 619-632. http://www.scielo.edu.uy/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1688-42212013000100008#MaccobyMart%EDn1983
  • Maccoby, E.E., y Martín, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. En E. M. Hetherington & P.H. Mussen (Eds), Handbook of child psychology: Socialization, personality and social development Vol.4 ( pp.1-101). New York: Wiley
  • Montero Jiménez, M., & Jiménez Tallón, M. Á. (2009). Los estilos educativos parentales y su relación con las conductas de los adolescentes. Familia39, 77-104.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.