Reactive Attachment Disorder…

attachment, developmentalpsychology, education, psychology, ReactiveAttachmentDisorder

Hey Everyone!

So lately I have been doing some research into an attachment disorder, called the Reactive Attachment Disorder. I recently came across this whilst reading through some new psychology notes and it’s something I wanted to share with everyone as it is something that is not widely recognised!

As an AS Psychology student, for the second time, I am able to study developmental psychology, and specifically attachments within children. There are a wide range of case studies that we study which are related to attachment such as Mary Ainsworths Strange Situation and The Glasgow Babies by Schaffer and Emerson. We also closely focus upon Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment.

Attachments are strong bonds or emotional ties that are formed between two people. As I previously mentioned, we specifically focus upon attachments formed by children. Attachment develops when a child is repeatedly soothed, comforted, and cared for and the caregiver meets the child’s needs regularly. Through this, a young child learns to love and trust others, to become aware of others’ feelings and needs, to regulate his or her emotions, and to develop healthy relationships and a positive self-image. The absence of emotional warmth during the first few years of life can negatively affect a child’s entire future.

So what actually is the Reactive Attachment Disorder?

He's just doing that to get attention...

We’ve all heard that “He’s just doing that to get attention…

Reactive Attachment Disorder is found in children and adults who have had severe problems or disruptions in their early relationships, which means they are unable to form a strong attachment. Many have been physically or emotionally abused or neglected. Some have experienced inadequate care in an institutional setting or other out-of-home placement such as a hospital,  foster care or orphanage. Others have had multiple or traumatic losses or changes in their primary caregiver. Reactive Attachment Disorder derives from this inadequate care-giving at such a young age.

Children and adults who have experienced an inadequate upbringing appear to be extremely withdrawn as well as being quite sad and irritable without any reasonable explanation. They avoid being involved in social interaction and seek no help or comfort from others.

As of yet there is not real medication to help cure this disorder. However, children who do suffer, appear to still have the ability to form new attachments as long as they are properly cared for. They may be provided with a proper foster home and proper care giving as well as given therapy and counselling.

Here is a video I found which describes RAD from suffers… Worth watching because it shouldn’t hurt to be a child…

Most of you are starting your Christmas break and I hope you all enjoy it lots! I will be posting more on attachment soon!


Samreece x


3 thoughts on “Reactive Attachment Disorder…

  1. My wife and I adopted two children (ages 12 and 14 respectively at the time they came into our lives; now they are adults) who have R.A.D. Attachment disorders come in degrees of severity, with the most severe being Reactive Attachment Disorder (R.A.D.). A person with R.A.D. cannot form meaningful emotional bonds with other people and have no conscience. The American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, states “reactive attachment disorder is characterized by persistent failure to initiate or respond in a developmentally appropriate fashion to most social interactions” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). For example the child may respond to caregivers with a mixture of approach, avoidance, frozen watchfulness, or resistance to comforting. Signs and symptoms include lack of conscience or empathy for others manifesting in antisocial behavior, severe aggression (which is often deliberate), property destruction, pathological lying, stealing, inappropriate sexual behavior, as well as manipulative behavior.

    As of today, there are still no widely accepted methods for treating Reactive Attachment Disorder. There is no long-term longitudinal data on the outcomes of children diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (Hanson & Spratt, 2000, pp. 142-143)

    Now in terms of what those with R.A.D. can develop into as the child grows into an adult without treatment, look at the signs and symptoms of R.A.D. compared to the signs and symptoms of Conduct Disorder as well as Antisocial Personality Disorder. Those three disorders are extremely similar in terms of signs and symptoms compared to comparing R.A.D. say to borderline personality disorder.

    While I believe children diagnosed with R.A.D. can APPEAR to form meaningful relationships, since a person with R.A.D. is highly manipulative, experts at lying, and have no empathy (one of the requirements for a healthy relationship along with being able to trust – both ways), I would need validation (peer reviewed research articles) showing it is possible for an untreated person with R.A.D. to outgrow R.A.D. to where they can have a real, empathic, trusting, honest relationship.

    Thank you.

    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-V. (5th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

    Hanson, R. F., & Spratt, E. G. (2000). Reactive attachment disorder: What we know about the disorder and implications for treatment. Child Maltreatment, 5(2), 137-145. doi:10.1177/1077559500005002005


    1. Firstly, I would like to say I am very sorry to hear about your children. RAD is a very unfortunate condition which no child should have to ever suffer from. However, in response to your request of validation, I would like to state I have only done brief research into this disorder as I was interested when reading an article. I am only studying psychology at A Level and I do hope that perhaps some day there will be fixed evidence available to support recovery from RAD and that one day your children too will be able to recover. I hope you understand I did not mean to create any means of false hope and that I only produced this blog post by using work already created to create my own shortened version to increase awareness of RAD.


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