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Reactive Attachment Disorder
Introduction and Overview
Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare, but complex psychological condition that affects young children, and is characterized by serious emotional attachment problems. Children affected by reactive attachment disorder do not establish healthy emotional bonds with their parents or caregivers and have difficulties forming lasting relationships.
Attachment plays an important role in the child's life affecting their cognitive and social development, influencing their value and belief system, and shaping how children relate to the world and form relationships throughout life. Through a healthy attachment, children learn to love, trust/mistrust, to be emphatic and compassionate, learn the meaning of feelings, learn how to recognize others' feelings and needs and how to properly respond to them, learn to control and regulate their emotions and impulses, and develop a positive, confident self-image.
Reactive attachment disorder can develop when the child's basic needs (the need for comfort, affection, nurturing and stimulation) are not met because the child was neglected or abused, was placed in many different foster homes, frequently changed the primary caregiver, or grew up in orphanages. However, abuse, neglect, or being raised in an orphanage does not always result in the development of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Many adopted children display attachment difficulties (which do not represent an attachment disorder). In order for a Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis to be established, the child has to display persistent abnormalities of the social relationship pattern (that are not a consequence of social anxiety, autism, or a development delay) that are associated with precarious early care (persistent disregard of the child's emotional and physical needs or being raised in an environment that limits the opportunities to form selective attachments).
The onset of the disorder is in the first several years of life (usually it begins before the age of 5) and its course is influenced by several factors: (1) the individual factors in child and caregivers, (2) the severity and duration of the psychosocial deprivation, and (3) the nature of intervention (remission or considerable improvements can be achieved within a supportive environment).
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a new diagnostic category and the data about its prevalence is limited. However, the existing data suggests that reactive attachment disorder is rare in most settings. However, in many cases, this disorder is misdiagnosed and is under reported.
Article by Alina Morrow
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