When a child is unable to form an attachment with other people, make sure to recognize this, for it might be a sign of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). This is a serious condition that should be resolved while a child is still young because it can affect how they cultivate relationships with other people when they become older.


  1. RAD – What are the implications?
  2. Reactive Attachment Disorder is a very serious condition. It is when a child is not able to establish an attachment or a bond with their parents or caregivers. When this is not managed properly, it can result in impairment in the child’s development, its inability to form long or short-term relationships as well as expressing his emotions. There are two forms of RAD – inhibited and disinhibited. In inhibited RAD, the child is not able to initiate or respond to interactions with other people (this is usually related to the loss of a primary caregiver). On the other hand, disinhibited RAD is manifested by a child participating in diffuse attachments and improper sociability, such as being excessively familiar with strangers. This is usually caused by the constant loss of attachment figures, or having multiple caregivers but being unable to develop an attachment to any of them.

    The primary cause of reactive attachment disorder is the inability to consistently connect with a parent or a caregiver. There are certain risk factors that can lead to a child developing RAD. These risk factors include institutional or foster care, having different caregivers, inexperienced parents, consistent neglect, prolonged hospitalization, poverty and any form of abuse, such as physical, emotional or sexual.


  3. What are the signs?
  4. Here are some of the different manifestations of RAD in infants, older children and adolescents: in infants, they might avoid eye contact, fail to smile or reach out when picked up, reject your efforts to soothe them, do not care if they are left alone, do not coo or make any sounds, spend time comforting themselves such as rocking, are not interested in interactive games or often cry inconsolably. For older children and adolescents, signs and symptoms include discomfort over displaying physical affection, anger management issues, a preference for being dominant in most situations and never asking for help.


  5. What can I do?
  6. When caring for such a child, there are certain things that one should keep in mind to make the situation easier. Setting realistic expectations is one of them; be patient and strive to promote a sense of humor and joy for the child. Self-care is also very important, even if it proves to be stressful. When things get out of hand, find the time to talk with some friends or with anyone who can help. To further assist such a child, find the things that make them feel good and help them identify ways to express their needs. Of course, talking and playing with one’s child while responding appropriately to their emotional age is also very important.


    It is very difficult to be the parent or the caregiver of a child who has reactive attachment disorder, but one should bear in mind that this condition is even harder for them. Keep vigilant and look out for the different signs and symptoms of RAD so that treatment can be sought after immediately.


This article was provided to you by Thrive Boston Counseling Services. Please visit our website at www.thriveboston.com for further information, or give us a call at 617-395-5806 if you are seeking assistance.