Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder

Overview Of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder is a problem in which a child is not able to easily form a normal or loving relationship with others. It is considered to be a result of not forming an attachment to any specific caregiver when very young.

Causes Of Reactive Attachment Disorder

This disorder is caused by abuse or neglect of an infant’s needs for:

  • Emotional bonds with a primary or secondary caretaker
  • Food
  • Physical safety
  • Touching

An infant or child may be neglected when the:

  • The caregiver is intellectually disabled
  • Caregiver lacks parenting skills
  • Parents are isolated
  • Parents are teenagers
  • A frequent change in caregivers (for example, in orphanages or foster care) is another cause of this disorder.


In a child, symptoms of reactive attachment disorder may include:

  • Avoiding caregiver
  • Avoiding physical contact
  • Difficulty being comforted
  • Not making distinctions when socializing with strangers
  • Wanting to be alone rather than interacting with others

The caregiver will often neglect the child:

  • Needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection
  • Needs like food, toileting, and play

Exams & Tests

This disorder is diagnosed with a:

  • Complete history
  • Physical examination
  • Psychiatric evaluation

Treatment Of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Treatment has two parts. The first goal is to make sure the child is in a safe environment where emotional and physical needs are met.

Once that has been established, the next step is to change the relationship between the caregiver and the child if the caregiver is the problem. Parenting classes can help the caregiver meet the child’s needs and bond with the child.

Counseling may help the caregiver work on problems, such as drug abuse or family violence. Social Services should follow the family to make sure the child remains in a safe, stable environment.