Child Neglect - What you need to know for the MFT and Social Work Exam

By Bethany Vanderbilt on January 18, 2012


Alright folks, we’re kicking off the LCSW & MFT Exam Hot Topics Blog with a review of Child Neglect. How would neglect show up in a test item?  Here’s a sample question:

Sample Question:

During an initial assessment with a 7-year-old boy, a therapist observes that the boy is small in stature and appears listless and gaunt.  He is difficult to engage in play and mostly unresponsive to questions about school and friends.  The therapist notices that the boy is trying to sneak candy from a dish into his pockets.  What should the therapist do NEXT?

A. Comment on the child's behavior

B. Call in the boy's mother to tell her about the behavior

C. Assess for further signs of child neglect

D. Make a note of the behavior and intervene if it is repeated 

According to the Social Work Dictionary, child neglect is defined as “The failure of those responsible for the care of a minor to provide the resources needed for healthy physical, emotional, and social development.  Child neglect is seen as an act of omission by caregivers because of limited abilities or resources or other circumstances; it is differentiated from child abuse, which is seen as more willful,” (Barker, 2003). So, what are some indicators of child neglect?  As clinicians, we would be looking for developmental indicators, like a delay in social or motor development; physical indicators, such as poor weight gain, failure to thrive, or a protruding abdomen; or emotional/behavioral indicators, such as self-stimulatory behaviors (instead of seeking out adults for comfort), chronic drowsiness, hoarding or stealing food, social withdrawal or awkward peer relationships.


The best answer choice is, in this case, C, since the child in the question is presenting with several indicators of possible child neglect.  Answers A and C do not address the potential seriousness of the situation; answer B may be included in your assessment, but is not enough by itself. If you are interested in our Top 50 Topics, go to the “LCSW Exam Prep” tab on our website; our workshops and study materials give you in depth information about each topic and strategies to help you pass the exam.  Our goal is to help you consolidate the knowledge that you already have and brush up on concepts that you may not have thought about since grad school.

Coming up next week: Abuse and Neglect of Elderly/Dependent Clients    

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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