Early Childhood Trauma & Attachment


1) What is Attachment?
Attachment is the basic process by which another human being (or animal) relates to and connects or bonds emotionally with another. Initial pioneers of Attachment Theory postulated that early attachment was born out of a necessity for survival as an infant cannot protect themselves or get their basic needs met without an adult.

2) Why is Attachment so important?
Your first attachment bond starts in the womb! From there, the messages you receive from the primary caregivers after birth help set the template for how your own attachment pattern will develop and how you will view the world and others in it. If you have a poorly developed, disorganized or anxious attachment pattern, it will be much harder for you to navigate the complexities of relationships. Essentially, attachment is the FOUNDATION upon which everything else is built!

3) What are the types of Attachment?
Secure, Anxious Ambivalent, Anxious Avoidant & Disorganized.

4) What is Attachment Disorder?
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a marked impariment in the ability of a person or child to form and maintain intimate social and emotional relationships particularly before the age of 5 years old. There are 2 main types: inhibited and disinhibited.

5) What are some of the symptoms of Attachment Disorder?
There are many symptoms which often look like other issues or problems. There is a big connection or comorbidity between Bipolar Disorder, ADHD and Reactive Attachment Disorder. A good summary of RAD symptoms can be found HERE. It is important to note that symptoms are not the same as diagnosis. Just because a child may have symptoms, does not mean they have Attachment Disorder. Diagnosing Reactive Attachment Disorder can only be done by a trained professional who specializes in this area.

6) What is the difference between an Attachment Disorder and an Attachment problem?
Everyone has some form of “attachment problem.” Otherwise we would relate perfectly to others. The bigger questions to ask it how much fear does a person have as it relates to abandonment, rejection, intimacy etc. . Do they equate intimate relationships with danger? Are they so afraid of abandonment, that they unconsciously create the very rejection they are afraid of to control their experience and reduce anxiety of the unknown? Are they able to set healthy boundaries with other? The primary difference is that most children who develop RAD, had some form or extreme neglect or abuse within the first few years of their lives. Studies show however, that if a child has at least one stable adult relationship during that time, they will develop resilience as to some of the attachment issues.

If Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Reactive Attachment Disorder – Do’s and Dont’s

1) Do seek out professional help as soon as possible from a trained specialist in Attachment.

2) Don’t assume because someone diagnosed your child or because they came to you with that diagnosis, that it is accurate (see number 3).

3) Do become an expert in the field. You will need to advocate for your child continuously if they meet criteria for the diagnosis.

4) Don’t allow a therapist to take the child and do individual therapy with them! Therapy’s primary objective should be to help your child bond with you not the therapist.

5) Do believe there is hope. Two great links that give Hope are:

Nancy Thomas Parenting

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