Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood

Psychological disorders are quite prevalent and troublesome, and mostly they stem out of an unhealthy childhood. 

Reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood in one such disorder where a child fails to form an attachment or a loving relationship with anyone.

The underlying reason behind not forming a loving relationship or attachment with anyone is considered to be the inability of a child to form an attachment in his infancy or early childhood with any caregiver. 

What are the causes of reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood?

It is said that every action has a reaction.

If a child fails to develop a healthy and loving attachment to people later in his life, then there are chances that he has had a bad childhood or infancy.

There can be several causes that cause reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood

● Parenting is no art. All it takes is dedication and care on the part of parents. In most cases, parents fail to provide the necessary care and commitment to their children, which results in this disorder.

● Children who have been abused in any way in their early infancy and childhood fail to develop a healthy attachment with anyone later in life. If you are a parent of one such child who is suffering from reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood, then the chances are that he or she has been abused either verbally, sexually, or emotionally by someone close to him or her.

● Parents who are dominating and abusive also threaten the child in many ways. In such a scenario, there are chances that the child is going to have this disorder.

● A child who is suffering from this disorder may also have extremely negligent parents.

● Children are supposed to form an attachment with such a person who comes to their rescue and their comfort. If a baby keeps crying and no one is coming to his or her rescue, then the chances are that he or she is going to have this disorder.

● If a child has been hospitalized for a more extended period, and he is separated from his parents, then he can form this disorder. 

● Emotionally unavailable parents also cause their children to go through this disorder. 

If you are a parent of one child who is suffering from reactive attachment disorder of early infancy or childhood, then you must know that maybe you have failed to prevent him in one way or another.

John Bowlby Theory Of Attached

John Bowlby was the first psychoanalyst who worked on attachment extensively.

He was a well-known psychoanalyst in the sixties, and he treated many children who have had emotional disturbance disorders.

While managing these children, John got to know that attachment plays an essential part in the development of a child.

He came to realize that without proper attachment, a child fails to form a healthy and loving relationship with his parents or even later with anyone else. 

John Bowlby gave us four characteristics of attachment.

He was of the view that attachment stems out of these four characteristics which are

● Safe Haven

● Secure base

● Proximity maintenance

● Separation distress

According to John Bowlby, children who could form an attachment with any of the parents are likely to succeed in life.

On the other hand, children who fail to form an attachment with a caregiver or a parent because of the reasons mentioned forms a distorted disorder, which is called reactive disorder of early infancy or early childhood.

Styles of Attachment

While explaining attachment theory, John also talked about the different forms of attachment.

He said that children usually follow four patterns of style attachment.

To better understand how children from attachment, John introduced for styles of attachment.

According to him, children form an attachment with caregivers or parents by following these four patterns.

Secure Attachment

In a secure attachment, children become dependent on a parent or a caregiver for comfort or security.

If a child is lucky enough to find comfort and safety in a parent or caregiver, then they are likely to have healthy personalities.

On the other hand, if children from an insecure attachment with parents, then the attachment issues can stem out later. 

Ambivalent Attachment

In ambivalent attachment patterns, children can not depend on their parents or caregivers for security or comfort.

Avoidant Attachment

In avoidant attachment, children are likely to avoid their parents or caregivers.

They are expected to avoid parents or caregivers because of their abusive or neglected behavior.

Disorganized Attachment

In disorganized attachment, children resist or avoid their parents because of specific reasons.

Warning signs of reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood

If you are a parent of one such child who is suffering from reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood, then know that there are sure warning signs of this disorder.

Understanding these signs means an understanding of the behavior of your child in a much better way.

Warning signs of RAD

● A child tends to show signs of fear, sadness, irritability, or withdrawal on seeing a caregiver or a parent.

● Children who are suffering from RAD may feel the need to control much more than other healthy children.

● These types of children usually watch social activities from a distance, but they do not take part in them. For instance, if they see that their fellow children are playing a match of cricket, then they may watch that match without being interactive or taking part.

● Children who suffer from reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood do not smile more after. On the other hand, they are very mellow and silent children.

● These types of children do not feel the need to have any comfort at all. Once they are beyond the need for support, then it doesn’t matter how much care you try to provide, they will not reciprocate healthily.

● One can quickly get to know about the children who are suffering from this disorder by their appearance. These types of children are usually very sad looking and listless. 

● Even if the children need support in your comfort, they will not ask for it. When a person or a child who is suffering from RAD gets hurt, then he does not seek the care and support of the people around him. 

● These children are usually aversive to touch. They will not allow anyone to touch them physically or affectionately. According to researchers, these children are aversive to touch because they have had an abusive history.

● Poor social interaction with fellow children or an inability to form healthy friendships with peers.

● Failure to take part in any social interaction and the children may remain emotionally unavailable.

Reactive attachment disorder DSM 5 diagnostic criteria

DSM 5 is the diagnostic manual for mental disorders, and it usually decides the criteria for different disorders.

To get to know what type of help your child needs, it is imperative that first psychiatrists or psychologists consult DSM 5 for the diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood.

DSM 5 helps the parents in getting the idea that when should they seek help for their children if they are diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood. 

Persistent withdrawal

When the child is showing persistent withdrawal on seeing the parents or caregivers, then there are chances that they are suffering from this disorder.

One can learn about the withdrawal by seeing that a child is not seeking help or comfort from the parent or caregiver in any scenario or tragedy.

Emotional withdrawal is the first criterion that makes sure that the child is suffering from this disorder.

Socially inactive

According to DSMfive children who are suffering from reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood do not take an active part in any social situation or event.

These types of children usually like to stay alone, and they do not take part in any activity which is happening in a social setting. 

Extreme Irritability in social settings 

As already said, the children who are suffering from reactive attachment disorder of infancy early childhood do not like to get involved in any social setting.

In case they have to go social in most cases than they show extreme sadness, fear, or irritability.

Some Helpful Resources

  1. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD): The Essential Guide for Parents
  2. Inside: Understanding How Reactive Attachment Disorder Thinks and Feels
  3. Detached: Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder
  4. Hope for High Risk and Rage Filled Children- Reactive Attachment Disorder: Theory and Intrusive Therapy
  5. When Love Is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting With RAD-Reactive Attachment Disorder

Frequently Asked questions

Q1. Will my child grow out of RAD?

Reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood is hazardous.

A child stars suffering from this disorder at the time of his development.

For this reason, it is often not possible for psychiatrists or psychologists to treat this disorder.

But with the affection and care of parents, reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood can be compensated.

There are some scenarios where children grow out of RAD.

Q2. How can I help my child with an attachment disorder?

Before helping your child, you must know why your child is suffering from this disorder in the first place.

Once children fail to develop the necessary trust in their parents and caregivers, then they fail to form attachments.

If you want to help your child with attachment disorder, then know that you have to give your time, dedication, and care to your affected child all the time. 

Q3. Is RAD a mental illness?

RAD is not a mental illness; it is a mental disorder where children fail to form healthy attachments.

With dedication, care, and love, there are chances that maybe your child gets the cure. 

Q4. How do you describe reactive attachment disorder?

Reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood can be defined as the inability to form a healthy relationship with anyone.

If your child is suffering from this disorder, then he or she is not going to create a healthy attachment. 

Q5. Can reactive attachment disorder be treated?

There is not a pill that promises to treat your child from this disorder.

With persistence, care, and love, there are chances that children eventually grow out of reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood. 

Q6. What is holding therapy in reactive attachment disorder of infancy early childhood?

In holding therapy, the psychiatrist or psychologist asks the parents or caregivers to forcefully hold the child unless he or she is top resisting.

This therapy has proved very beneficial in specific scenarios.


Childhood is a susceptible period of a child’s life.

If the parents can successfully provide the necessary care and love to their children in this stage, then children can form healthy relationships later in life. If you do not want your child to suffer from reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood, then be there for him in his developing years.

By merely giving the care and love to your child, you can save him from any disorders later in life. 


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  2. Child Abuse
  3. What is theory of attachement
  4. Do you feel loneliness?
  5. Who is psychologist
  6. DSM for mental disorders

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