Understanding Abandoned Child Syndrome


Abandoned Child Syndrome is a behavioral and mental condition that is caused by the loss of one or both parents. The abandonment may be physical, as is the case when one or both parents are not around to meet a child’s basic physical needs. It may also be emotional, which can occur when a parent is physically present but does not provide the child with the nurturing love, affection, and stimulation that is necessary for an adequate upbringing. The child abandonment may be intentional, as when a parent gives up custody of a child due to health or financial reasons, or unintentional, as when one or both parents die unexpectedly.

In addition to suffering irreversible psychological and emotional damage, children who are afflicted with abandoned child syndrome often have physical effects of their abuse. Children who have been abandoned by their parents often suffer from malnutrition, starvation, and neglect.

Symptoms of Abandoned Child Syndrome

The symptoms of abandoned child syndrome are often irreversible and continue to affect abandoned children long after they reach adulthood. These symptoms include:

  • Alienation from the everyday environment
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Extreme guilt associated with thoughts that the child caused the abandonment to occur
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Insecurity
  • Eating disorders including malnutrition, starvation
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Grief

Diagnosing Abandoned Child Syndrome

The diagnosis of abandoned child syndrome is derived from a number of factors. It is very easy to determine whether a child was physically abandoned by one or more of his parents, but assessing the emotional side of the disorder is more difficult. Psychologists and social workers first examine the living conditions of the child to analyze whether or not he suffered from emotional abandonment. They take into account the condition of the bond between parents and the child and perform a mental assessment to see whether or not the child has any of the symptoms that are most commonly associated with abandoned child syndrome.

Common Treatments for Abandoned Child Syndrome

Children who have been diagnosed with abandoned child syndrome often require years of therapy in order to overcome their emotional scars and learn how to bond with friends, family members and parental figures. Depending on the age of the child, he or she may participate in group counseling along with individual counseling sessions. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may also be required depending on the developmental needs of the child.

Alternative Treatments for Abandoned Child Syndrome

Because abandoned child syndrome is not considered a definitive diagnosis and is not officially recognized by mental health professionals, caregivers often find it necessary to either pay out of pocket for therapy and counseling or attempt to provide the child with the nurturing care that he or she needs on their own.