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​Attachment Disorders

Attachment Disorders

Attachment disorders are conditions usually found in children and young people who find it difficult to form emotional bonds with their primary carers. The reason children suffer from these disorders is usually because their emotional needs and need to be nurtured have not been met during their younger years.

There are several types of attachment disorders, however, the two most well know are Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Disinhibited Attachment Disorder (DAD). The inhibited form of RAD is characterised by a lack of expectation of care and comfort. DAD is characterised by a general and excessive familiarity, even with strangers.

There are several things that can trigger attachment issues throughout a child’s life. It can be linked to a major traumatic change or event or through the consistent failure of the child or young person’s primary care giver to meet their needs. For example:

  • Sudden/traumatic separation from main carer
  • Physical, emotional, sexual or neglectful abuse
  • Illness or pain that cannot be alleviated by the carer
  • Frequent moves/changes of placement
  • Inconsistent/inadequate care at home

There are several warning signs that you can look out for that may indicate a child is suffering from an attachment disorder:


  • Lack of eye contact
  • Self-harm – head banging, biting, picking skin
  • Problems making/keeping friends
  • Child shows affection to strangers
  • Speech problems – i.e. reverts to baby talk
  • Issues with food
  • Anxiously attached/clingy
  • Learning problems at school
  • Tantrums
  • Stealing from family
  • Child destroys own or others things

In order to treat attachment disorders it is important to understand where they come from and how they are formed. Typically there are six steps that can contribute to the development of attachment disorders. These usually occur in the first few years of life:

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If you have trouble dealing with a child who has attachment issues, remember our team are here to support you. If you need someone to talk to or any expert advice please speak to your Supervising Social Worker or local office.