October 22, 2017

What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

When Love Is Not EnoughWhat is Attachment?

In order to understand exactly what Reactive Attachment Disorder (or just Attachment Disorder) is, first we need to explain what attachment is. Attachment in this defined in Wikipedia as “an emotional connection. Attachment involves being dependent on someone for something: emotional, mental or physical.” When we’re talking about attachment on this site, we’re talking about the bond between an infant and his mother. This bond significantly affects how that child will later form relationships with the world.

What is Attachment Disorder?

Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. Unattached people have a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with other people. The usually don’t develop a conscience and never learn to trust anyone. Because of this trust issue, they have to be in control and will not let others be in control of them. While it may not be a bad thing to not let others control you as an adult, as a child you need to let your parents control you. Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD kids, do not allow this to happen. They have to be in control at all times!

What is the difference between Attachment Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Originally, the term given to this disorder was Attachment Disorder. Then, in 1980 “Reactive” was added to the term. At the time, the term Reactive Attachment Disorder only referred to children suffering from Attachment Disorder under the age of eight months. It has since been changed to include older children too.  As far as we’re concerned, the two terms are interchangeable, and we’ll use them that way on our website.

What causes Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Bonding begins at conception. What the mother does even before the child is born directly affects the bonding ability and personality of the child. Drug and alcohol abuse, maternal stress or unwanted pregnancy can be causes of Attachment Disorder.

According to Nancy Thomas in When Love Is Not Enough, even if one of the following things occurs to the child before the age of 36 months they would have a high risk of Reactive Attachment Disorder:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sudden Separation from primary caretaker (for example, illness or death of Mother or hospitalization of the child)
  • Inadequate day care or change of day care provider
  • Undiagnosed or painful illness, such as ear infections or colic
  • Chronic maternal depression
  • Several moves and/or placements (foster care, failed adoptions)
  • Unprepared mothers with poor parenting skills

Nancy says that these situations can cause the child to “shut down”, and not be able to trust, love, or care. They must be in control and they learn to manipulate and have no conscience development

What can be done?

Thankfully, there are many things that can be done to help the child attach to their mother! Nancy Thomas gives all the answers in her book When Love Is Not Enough. If you’ve got a child that you suspect has RAD, you must get this book! As you are using the resources in this book, you can utilize additional helps with behaviors and disrespect from the Total Transformation program.  As the awesome parents you are, you know that success is dependent upon using what works for your child’s specific personalities.

About the author: By

Matt is the parent (along with his wife Julie) to five wonderful kids. He has been self-employed for 25+ years and is the owner of the Parenting Allies website.

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Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

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