It’s Not All About The Behaviors: Identifying and Addressing Relational Neglect in Adolescence within the Familial Environment


  • Tawanda L. Hubbard DSW Candidate at Rutgers University


neglect, relational neglect, adolescence, parent-adolescent relationship, in-home therapy, child welfare, parenting, oppositional behaviors in adolescence, clinical practice with adolescents, Neglect, Relational Neglect, Adolescence, Parent-adolescent relationship, In-home Therapy, Child Welfare, Parenting, Oppositional Behaviors in Adolescence, and Clinical Practice with Adolescence


As an in-home therapist working with adolescents, the presenting problem in most of my referrals focuses on the adolescent’s behaviors and the negative impact on his or her family and community. The most common solution is to place the youth in an out-of-home placement. Here, I share some of my most poignant cases, in order to illustrate how some adolescents, labeled the problem, suffer from what I call relational neglect. It is a phenomenon I define as the absence of nourishing interactions of attunement and quality connection within the familial environment. The two adolescents in this paper were described as the problem at home because they demonstrated oppositional behaviors and poor attitudes. Caregivers were under the illusion the adolescents’ behaviors were created in isolation. I will utilize the cases of Mike and Michelle to join the debate on neglect, to challenge negative notions of adolescence, and to address relational neglect in adolescence. I will make a call to action for all clinical social workers working with families with adolescents to assess and treat relational neglect, which requires a focus on quality connections and the adolescents’ lived experiences, habits, and attunement with caregivers.

Author Biography

Tawanda L. Hubbard, DSW Candidate at Rutgers University

Tawanda Hubbard is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 10 years of experience in child welfare, behavioral health, advocacy, case management and clinical practice.  She is currently pursuing her DSW at Rutgers School of Social Work.  Tawanda has held positions as a case manager in child welfare and behavioral health, social work instructor, therapist and supervisor in therapeutic foster care and intensive in-community services apart of New Jersey’s Children’s System of Care and private practice, where she has provided individual, couple and family therapy.  Tawanda has served as an active member and held leadership positions within NASW-NJ, former Vice-Present, and NABSW-NNJ, former Treasurer.

Tawanda provides individual and family therapy as a private practitioner and independent contractor, certified child sexual abuse therapist, DRCC, Rutgers’ part-time lecturer, clinical supervisor, field instructor, and trainer.  She is the current President-Elect of NASW-NJ and active member of the Board of Directors, finance committee and Delegate Assembly.  Tawanda serves on Rutgers School of Social Work Alumni Council and member of NJ Chapter of NABSW.




How to Cite

Hubbard, T. L. (2017). It’s Not All About The Behaviors: Identifying and Addressing Relational Neglect in Adolescence within the Familial Environment. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 23(1), 52–65. Retrieved from