Reactive attachment disorder is serious and rare condition that affects babies and young children causing them to fail to create a bond with their parents or other close caregivers.
This condition generally affects children that have been subject to some sort of neglect or abuse or that have been moved from one caregiver to another such as is typical of foster homes. This often results because a child’s basic needs of being comforted, shown affection and nurtured are left unfulfilled thus preventing the child from allowing the natural bond to grow. This condition may have a permanent effect on the child’s development because it can change how a child’s brain works thus making it difficult to establish healthy relationships in the future.
This type of disorder is lifelong however with treatment children that are affected can learn to develop healthy relationships. Some treatments for this disorder often include counseling with a psychologist for the child and education for the caregiver or parent of the child.
Some of the symptoms that may be present in babies include being withdrawn or sad, lack of smiling, not reaching out when picked up, disinterested in playing with toys, not using their eyes to follow others in a room, being calm when left alone and participating in self comforting behaviors such as rocking.
Although there are noticeable signs of reactive attachment disorder in older children as well they may be somewhat different from the symptoms of this disorder that are seen in babies. Some of the symptoms that may be seen in older children ranging from toddlers to adolescents include withdrawal, aggressive behavior, watching others closely but not participating in social interaction, refusal to ask for help, showing obvious feelings of discomfort of awkwardness, hiding feelings of anger, drug or alcohol abuse in adolescents and avoiding or ignoring gestures of comfort.
There has not been much research on the effects of this condition beyond early childhood however it is suggested that it may lead to aggressive or controlling behavior as well as issues relating to other individuals as well as other problems. Treatment may help this condition however because this is a lifelong problem the changes these children endure will most likely create permanent obstacles making future relationships difficult at best.
If your child shows any of the signs of this condition such as preferring not to be held, avoiding you or seeming disinterested in you, excessively plays alone, doesn’t not look for physical contact or goes easily to strangers then you should consider taking your child to a health care professional in order to get a professional diagnosis and begin a treatment plan.
The exact reason why some children develop reactive attachment disorder while others in the same situation or circumstances do not however some factors that increase the risk of an infant or child developing this disorder include children who have multiple caregivers such as is the case when a child is moved from one foster home to another. Other factors may include inexperienced parents, abuse, neglect and long periods of hospitalization such as what might be expected with numerous serious illnesses.