Thursday, September 17, 2009

Forms of Attachment

Attachment to a primary caregiver takes place during pregnancy and grows stronger during the first three years of life in a healthy relationship. Attachment is necessary for an infant to grow and develop emotionally and physically. Sadly, when the attachment to the primary care giver is broken within the first three years of life Reactive Attachment Disorder can develop.

Some of the factors causing this break in attachment:

mental illness of primary care giver
alcoholism and/or drug use
hospitalizations of either mother or child
emotionally unavailable primary care giver
unwanted pregnancy

Forms of Attachment and how they look in a strange situation:

Secure attachment: When in a strange situation the child uses the mother as a secure base of operations. Looks to see if she is watching, comes back now and then to check and make sure she is there, or comes and sits near her if frightened. Is comforted by this close contact.

Anxious/Avoidant Attachment: In a strange situation the child avoids reestablishing contact with the mother after a time of separation. Does not care if mother is in the room and does not use her as a base of operations. If they are upset having mom there does not help.

Anxious/Resistant Attachment: In the strange situation the child will seek close contact with the mom but then resists any form of reassurance from her. These children have much anxiety, are clingy and afraid when they first come into the room. When separated they may be very agitated and anxious but are angry with mom when she gets back.

Anxious/Disorganized Disoriented Attachment: In the strange situation the child shows a variety of behaviors. They may be happy to see the caregiver but as she draws closer they resist. They may approach the caregiver but avoid eye contact. They may appear confused, apprehensive, depressed and even may show some fear of the caregiver.

All information taken from A Child's Odyssey by Paul S. Kaplan which is a book on child development.

I don't know that it is really important to stick your child into a category. I think it is helpful to see, though, that this is why our children may all have RAD but react so different in different situations. Part of the reason there are different types of attachment are that there are different reasons for the breaks in attachment. Understanding and having empathy for our kid's fear is very helpful in changing the way we react to their behavior and how we relate to them. Everyone wants to know that someone understands, that someones "gets" them. How great is it that for our kids it is "mom", the one with whom the healing really needs to take place!


Mom 4 Kids said...

This is really great that you share this kind of info here. I have a dear friend who has a three (almost 4 year old) and this will be really helpful to her. Thanks again.

Brenda said...

I'm so glad it helps. I feel we all are here to help each other in our own way. Thanks to all of you who are such a help to me.

Karalyn said...

You have answered some big questions for me today. I just found your blog a few days ago by Googling RAD and I am so thankful.
I have an 8 year old stepson who I have long (almost 5 years) thought to have RAD but have been told again and again by "professionals" that he does not because he did not languish in some orphanage for years. However his mother is Bipolar, suffered from Post-partum depression, had little interaction with him as an infant (even though they lived in the same house) and eventually walked out on her marriage and baby when he was 18 months old. Now I see that it is very likely that I have been right all along and we have been wasting so much time, not getting the right treatment. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I will definitely continue reading.

Brenda said...


While I am so sorry about your stepson I am glad you are figuring things out. He is blessed to have someone in his life who is determined to find the answers for him.

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

Different personalities impact attachment styles as well. Good post.