Reactive Attachment Disorder

Because I have seen so many children come through my family’s home with symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder, I used my health research paper of use to get to know more about it! Here is my paper:

I have had experience in my home with foster children who have a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder. A child with reactive attachment disorder affects a family as a whole. The family dynamics are different, and each family member can be affected individually. Reactive attachment disorder interests me because my family has had first-hand experience with foster children who have had this disorder. I want to learn more about it and show the realities of the problems they have and the opportunities there are to stop them.

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is when a child does not form an attachment to a parent or caregiver. Attachment has been defined as “an affectionate bond between two individuals that endures space and time and serves to join them emotionally” (Fahlberg 20). If no attachment is formed in the first three years of life, the child’s ability to trust and bond with other people can be severely broken.  Many children can develop reactive attachment disorder if they have not had a form of a consistent caregiver (going from one foster home to the next), or have not had their needs met (abandonment or neglect).

A lot of times when a child has gone through a significant, traumatic experience in their life, their risk for obtaining an attachment disorder is higher. For example, if a baby is taken from their mother, it can affect them for the rest of their life. A baby somehow seems to know the mother’s voice, heartbeat and environmental sounds before they are born. Because of this, they will know when that is taken from them. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, a child with reactive attachment disorder will have a hard personal life, and their parent’s will have a difficult time parenting them.

Keck and Kupecky describe the symptoms of reactive attachment disorder as, “superficially engaging and ‘charming’ behavior, indiscriminate affection toward strangers, lack of affection with parents on their terms (not cuddly), little eye contact on parental terms, persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter, inappropriate demanding and clingy behavior, lying about the obvious (primary process lying), stealing, destructive behavior to self, to others, and to material things (accident-prone), abnormal eating patterns, no impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive), lags in learning, abnormal speech patterns, poor peer relationships, lack of cause-and-effect thinking, lack of conscience, cruelty to animals, and preoccupation with fire” (31-32). Many times, reactive attachment disorder can be seen by observations from the parents. A psychiatric observation may be needed, because reactive attachment disorder can be misdiagnosed without a professional.

A child needs to have the interaction with their parents or caregivers, behavior patterns, information about interaction with others, home and living situation since birth, and parenting/caregiving styles evaluated. Reactive attachment disorder resembles many other disorders that include: intellectual disability, adjustment disorders, autism spectrum disorder and depressive disorders. Without proper diagnosis, attachment will not be formed correctly. This could cause the child to be displaying symptoms and having difficulty with their everyday lives for years. The link between adulthood and reactive attachment disorder as a child has not been proven yet, as there needs to be more research.

Parents think children will “grow out of” their behavior. Many children will not be able to “grow out of” their behavior alone. There needs to be proper treatment included. Early intervention is the best bet for a child to be successful at working out their problems. A child needs a safe, stable living situation and positive interactions with their parents or caregivers in order to be successful. There are many other strategies to make this treatment easier and effective. describes these strategies as, “encouraging the child’s development by being nurturing, responsive and caring, providing consistent caregivers to encourage a stale attachment for the child, providing a positive, stimulating and interactive environment for the child, and addressing the child’s medical, safety and housing needs as appropriate.”

Prevention of reactive attachment disorder is not known, but preventing the development of it may be possible. With education about attachment issues, taking classes or volunteering with children, being engaged with your child, learning interpretation of your baby’s cues, nurturing interaction with your child, and the use of both verbal and nonverbal cues with your child, then reactive attachment disorder may be preventable.

In conclusion, reactive attachment disorder is complex. Education and behavioral methods to diagnose, treat, and even prevent this disorder is something to be learned. Treatment is one of the biggest priorities. Parents cannot assume their child is different, will “grow out of” it, or simply does not have it. Parents need to make sure their child feels safe and attached to them in order to have an easier time parenting and loving their child.

Works cited:
Deborah D. Gray, Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents, Indianapolis, IN, Perspectives Press, Inc., 2002, 3 pages
Gregory C. Keck and Regina M. Kupecky, Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids, Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 2009, 4 pages
Nancy L. Thomas, When Love is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting Children with RAD-Reactive Attachment Disorder, Glenwood Springs, CO, Families by Design, 2005, 5 pages
Vera I. Fahlberg, A Child’s Journey Through Placement, Indianapolis, IN, Perspectives Press, 1991, 7 pages
The Mayo Clinic Staff, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Mayo Clinic, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, July 10 2014,

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