Three early papers on self-neglect

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Purpose: We examine three English research papers on self-neglect, from 1957 and 1966 (articles by Patricia Shaw and Duncan Macmillan in Nottingham), and 1975 (the Diogenes Syndrome article in The Lancet drawing on work from Brighton). We discuss them in the context of more recent thinking and the statutory framework in England. Design/methodology/approach: 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. Findings: 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. Originality/value: By drawing on the historical research context, the paper contributes to our current understanding of the field of self-neglect.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adult Protection
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • Care Act 2014
  • Hoarding
  • Legal
  • Safeguarding
  • Self-neglect
  • Severe domestic squalor


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