Parent-child interaction: systematic review

Child Protection Evidence is a resource for clinicians across the UK and internationally to inform clinical practice, child protection procedures and professional and expert opinion in the legal system.


This systematic review evaluates the scientific literature on parent-child interactions published up until June 2021 and reflects the findings of eligible studies. The review aims to answer the following clinical question:

    • What are the features of parent-child interactions amongst neglected and/or emotionally abused children aged 0-14 years?

Key findings:

    • Only two studies to date have addressed emotional maltreatment
    • All practitioners involved with children have the opportunity to observe parent-child interactions. Children who experience poor parent-child interactions may fail to develop a secure attachment relationship with their parent, which can lead to long-term social and psychological problems
    • While neglect is a failure to provide adequate care, there are identifiable features in the interaction between neglected and/or emotionally abused children and their caregivers that can vary in different ages and can be detected on careful observation
Disclaimer: This is a summary of the systematic review findings up to the date of our most recent literature search. If you have a specific clinical case, we strongly recommend you read all of the relevant references as cited and look for additional material published outside our search dates.

Original reviews and content © Cardiff University, funded by NSPCC

Updates and new material by RCPCH March 2022

While the format of each review has been revised to fit the style of the College and amalgamated into a comprehensive document, the content remains unchanged until reviewed and new evidence is identified and added to the evidence-base. Updated content will be indicated on individual review pages.

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