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Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD): Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers

What does attachment mean? Why is it so important?

Attachment is the gradually developing quality of a reciprocal affectionate relationship between the infant and parent(s), especially the mother or the primary caregiver, during the first year of life. It is believed that a strong attachment provides the basis for healthy emotional and social development, and children who are deprived of the opportunity to form attachments, due to deprived environments and/or grossly inadequate caregiving, will not be able to develop normally.

If a six-month-old infant is not gaining weight and seems listless, does that mean she has Reactive Attachment Disorder?

These symptoms alone do not point to Reactive Attachment Disorder. This disorder, by definition, must be caused by a gross lack of adequate care by the parents or other primary caregivers. The pediatrician should be consulted in regard to other possible causes, such as inadequate nutrition, inappropriate levels of stimulation, or possible physical conditions.

Can Reactive Attachment Disorder be cured?

The sooner the problem is identified and the conditions contributing to the grossly inadequate care and poor environment are changed, the better the chances for a reversal of the disorder.

Do all children who are adopted have Reactive Attachment Disorder?

The majority of adopted children do not have Reactive Attachment Disorder. Children who have been in an institution or other environment in which the caregivers did not provide emotional and sensory stimulation, such as physical holding, talking and interaction with adults, do best when they are adopted as soon as possible. The younger the children are when they are removed from the deprived environment, the better their chances of following a normal developmental track.

Since children with autism often don't respond to other people, do they also have Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Children with autism do show a lack of responsiveness to people, even to their parents, but most of these children are not apathetic or listless. They may show a preferential interest in inanimate objects and bizarre responses to environmental stimuli, but the deviant course of their development is not due to inadequate or pathological caretaking. A neurological basis for the lack of ability to comprehend normal social relationships is present in autism.