Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.
With treatment, children with reactive attachment disorder may develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Treatments for reactive attachment disorder include:
- Psychological counseling
- Parent or caregiver counseling and education
- Learning positive child and caregiver interactions
- Creating a stable, nurturing environment
Reactive attachment disorder can start in infancy. Some of the symptoms include:
- Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
- Sad and listless appearance
- Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
- Failure to smile
- Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
- Failing to ask for support or assistance
- Failure to reach out when picked up
- No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games
While it’s not known with certainty if reactive attachment disorder can be prevented, though there may be ways to reduce the risk of its development. The following parenting suggestions may help.
- Take classes or volunteer with children if you lack experience or skill with babies or children. This will help you learn how to interact in a nurturing manner.
- Be actively engaged with your child by lots of playing, talking to him or her, making eye contact, and smiling.
- Learn to interpret your baby’s cues, such as different types of cries, so that you can meet his or her needs quickly and effectively.
- Provide warm, nurturing interaction with your child, such as during feeding, bathing or changing diapers.
- Offer both verbal and nonverbal responses to the child’s feelings through touch, facial expressions and tone of voice.