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Reactive Attachment Disorder: All About Insecure Attachments in Kids

Reactive Attachment Disorder: All About Insecure Attachments in Kids

Attachment develops when kids are nurtured, cared for, and repeatedly soothed by caregivers. Thanks to attachment, kids learn how to trust and love other people. However, in cases of neglectful behaviors, adults do not provide kids with enough care or do not make an effort to create a strong bond with their child. This results in the development of reactive attachment disorder (RAD), making it difficult for children to form meaningful relationships with other people. It also acts as a hindrance to the development of social skills in children. Children are more likely to be diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder than adults.

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a complicated, serious, and relatively uncommon condition in which children do not form a long-lasting and healthy relationship with their parents or caretakers. Generally, from the age of five years, RAD may become an everlasting condition if not treated in time.

Who Does Reactive Attachment Disorder Mostly Affect?

A reactive attachment disorder is most likely to develop among children between nine months and five years of age, who have been abused or neglected – physically, mentally, or emotionally. It might not be as common among children above the age of five years, but it isn’t strictly restricted within this age bracket either. T

his happens mostly because reactive attachment disorder can be misdiagnosed as other behavioral or emotional complexities.

Below are the situations in which children are more likely to develop reactive attachment disorder:

  • Experienced multiple traumatic losses at a very young age
  • Stayed at an orphanage
  • Frequent changes in foster care
  • Change of caretakers with whom he/she had already shared a strong bond

Signs and Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder

There are two types of RAD: inhibited and disinhibited.


  • Detached attitude
  • Unresponsiveness or resistance to comforting
  • Withdrawal behaviors
  • Avoidance
  • Rejection of relationships with other people


  • Indiscriminate sociability
  • Selective choice of attachment figures
  • Attention-seeking
  • Inappropriate childish behaviors
  • Violation of widely accepted social boundaries

Other Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder

On a relationship aspect

Kids with RAD tend to be bossy, manipulative and mistrust in relationships. They often doubt other people’s feelings and blame them in every situation. These kids have difficulty giving and receiving love and affection.

On a behavioral aspect

RAD is reflected through impulsive, irresponsible and destructive behaviors. Children with this disorder tend to lie, steal, or engage in destructive activities such as starting fires or killing animals. Kids with RAD may also avoid skinship and indulge themselves in drugs and alcohol use.

On a moral aspect

Kids with RAD lack compassion and remorse in their actions.

On an emotional aspect

Children may experience hopeless and fearful feelings, most of which cannot be logically explained.

On a mental aspect

Children who have RAD may not be attentive and lack belief in themselves as well as others.

Causes and Effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder


RAD appears when there is no bond between children and their caretakers or when that bond is interrupted. Constant neglect of children’s physical needs can also be a cause. Frequent changes in caretakers also disrupt the bond between the children and those who look after them.


RAD can take a toll on children, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Delayed physical growth or learning ability are some of the common symptoms. They develop troublesome behaviors that disrupt their relationships in life. They are also prone to anxiety and depression, which are likely to result in substance abuse.

Treatment for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Treatment for RAD revolves around the caregivers, and addressing the problems that affect the bond between the caregivers and the children. It gives an insight to parents regarding the reason for reactive attachment disorder in their child. The treatment also guides them on how they can create a strong bond or repair the relationship with their child.

There is no medicine to treat RAD itself, but therapy is an effective way for parents and children to express their thoughts and feelings, mend their differences, and start a healthy relationship.

It goes without saying that children need care and company of their parents for their emotional and mental wellbeing. They need your time for physical proximity. It is the same with caregivers if your child has one. The best caregiver for your child is one with whom he/she bonds well.

In case your child develops reactive attachment disorder, despite you taking all these precautions, don’t be negligent with seeing a professional who will give them he emotional and mental support that they need to overcome the trauma.

Learn more about Child Behavioral and Developmental Disorders here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Reactive Attachment Disorder/https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17904-reactive-attachment-disorder /Accessed on 04/11/2020

Reactive Attachment Disorder/https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reactive-attachment-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352939 /Accessed on 04/11/2020

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Other Attachment Issues/https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/attachment-issues-and-reactive-attachment-disorders.htm /Accessed on 04/11/2020

Reactive Attachment Disorder Basics/https://childmind.org/guide/reactive-attachment-disorder/ Accessed on 04/11/2020

Reactive Attachment Disorder https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537155/ Accessed on 04/11/2020

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Oct 19, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel