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Three early papers on self-neglect

Stephen Martineau (NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King's College London, London, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 2 December 2020

Issue publication date: 23 February 2021




The paper examines three English research papers on self-neglect, from 1957, 1966 and 1975, discussing them in the context of more recent thinking and the statutory framework in England.


In reviewing the three research papers, developments and points of continuity in the field of self-neglect were identified and are discussed in this paper.


In light of the findings of the three articles, the present paper traces some of the classificatory refinements in this field that have taken place since the papers were published, notably in respect of hoarding and severe domestic squalor. Some of the difficulties in making judgements about behaviour thought to breach societal norms are described, and the challenges practitioners face in intervening in cases, particularly where the person concerned is refusing assistance, are examined.


By drawing on the historical research context, the paper contributes to our current understanding of the field of self-neglect.



This paper derives from the study, ‘Opening the “Too Difficult Box”: Strengthening Adult Safeguarding Responses to Homelessness and Self-neglect’. The study represents independent research (Ref. P141) funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR). The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NIHR SSCR, NIHR or Department of Health and Social Care.


Martineau, S. (2021), "Three early papers on self-neglect", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 45-56.



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