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RAD = Reactive Attachment Disorder
RAD is a relative newcomer to the soup bowl, is not very well understood, and is only beginning to get the spotlight it needs to find resources that are needed to help families coping with this particular label.
Unfortunately it is pretty common, comes in varying degrees and rarely exists by itself.
Trying to find a consistent definition was difficult and I understand why. Attachment has much theory behind it but not necessarily a lot of understanding. Fortunately, there are organizations that have dedicated themselves to understanding it and helping families that are dealing with it.
I believe it is much more prevalent than the medical community is aware of. Counselors and psychiatrists are not up to speed on it and I have often received blank stares when I talk about it. Even experts who supposedly know all about it don’t really know how to deal with it in an ongoing, daily relationship.
Our society is going to find itself with an ever-increasing population of unattached children. With so many families that have been separated through divorce, trauma, death, economic issues war; kids are neglected and left to fend for themselves either physically or emotionally.
The foster care system and adoption circles are two places where you will most likely see kids who have problems with attachment. International adoption would even be more likely since the children are crossing cultural lines as well as familial ones.
The kids who were being diagnosed with FAS fifteen to twenty years ago are now becoming parents and don’t necessarily have the skills to parent their children in such a way that attachment occurs. Add to that economic crisis in which families need to move or one wage-earner is working away from home for long periods of time.
Children are missing parents and/or adequate opportunities to attach and bond properly to an adult care-giver. As you will see in the following descriptions this is very detrimental to proper development of relationships not only to the family but to society in general.
As with most disorders there are varying degrees to which attachment disorder affects a person. One of our biological children was born with a medical condition that required much time in the hospital for the first three years of his life. Even though a parent was usually with him at all times the treatments he underwent and the trauma they induced left permanent scars on his personality. I have talked to other parents who have children with early trauma of a similar nature and they have described some of the same things. While, for the most part, he is very well attached there are some significant differences between him and our children who did not have that trauma.
The following information is from an organization that specializes in attachment therapies. Their goal is to help reverse the effects of attachment disorder and to help families heal. You can find their website at www.attachment.org
“Attachment is defined as the affectional tie between two people. It begins with the bond between the infant and mother. This bond becomes internally representative of how the child will form relationships with the world. Bowlby stated “the initial relationship between self and others serves as blueprints for all future relationships.” (Bowlby, 1975)
Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust. They do not allow people to be in control of them due to this trust issue. This damage is done by being abused or physically or emotionally separated from one primary caregiver during the first 3 years of life. “If a child is not attached–does not form a loving bond with the mother–he does not develop an attachment to the rest of mankind. The unattached child literally does not have a stake in humanity” (Magid&McKelvey 1988). They do not think and feel like a normal person.
- Attachment Disorder Symptoms
• Superficially engaging & charming
• Lack of eye contact on parents’ terms
• Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
• Not affectionate on parents’ terms (not ‘cuddly’)
• Destructive to self, others and material things (‘accident prone’)
• Cruelty to animals
• Lying about the obvious (‘crazy’ lying)
• No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
• Learning Lags
• Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
• Lack of conscience
• Abnormal eating patterns
• Poor peer relationships
• Preoccupation with fire
• Preoccupation with blood & gore
• Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
• Inappropriately demanding & clingy
• Abnormal speech patterns
• Triangulation of adults
• False allegations of abuse
• Presumptive entitlement issues
• Parents appear hostile and angry
Any of the following conditions occurring to a child during the first 36 months of life puts them at risk:
• Unwanted pregnancy
• Pre-birth exposure to trauma, drugs or alcohol
• Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
• Neglect (not answering the baby’s cries for help)
• Separation from primary caregiver (i.e. illness or death of mother, or severe illness or hospitalization of the baby, or adoption)
• On-going pain such as colic, hernia or many ear infections
• Changing day cares or using providers who don’t do bonding
• Moms with chronic depression
• Several moves or placements (foster care, failed adoptions)
• Caring for baby on a timed schedule or other self-centered parenting”
Tomorrow I will share how we were introduced to the beast that has had such a negative effect on our family.