Recognizing Attachment Disorders In Children

Recognizing Attachment Disorders In Children Signs To Look For And How To Identify Them

Signs To Look For And How To Identify Them

Parent-child attachment is an important factor in childhood development that begins in infancy. When an adult, whether it is a parent or other caregiver, responds to the needs of the baby, the baby will learn to trust the adult to keep them safe, secure, and healthy.

A secure and healthy attachment with guardian adults can help a child form healthier relationships and develop problem-solving skills.

They tend to be more adventurous and independent and often won’t have extreme reactions to stress. 

Conversely, babies who do not receive proper care will be less likely to develop trust in the caregiver.

This can contribute to an insecure attachment style, and they may develop behaviors like avoidance, exaggerated response to stress, anger, fear, and anxiety. In some cases, this can lead to attachment disorders.


Attachment Disorders

Attachment disorders are conditions that develop during early childhood and involve the lack of deep emotional connection or attachment with their primary caregiver.

They can be characterized by a variety of different symptoms that can vary from mild issues that are easily addressed and resolved to more severe problems that can be diagnosed as one of two unique attachment disorders: reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED). 

Attachment disorders are common in young kids who have experienced traumatic experiences, abuse, and insecure living situations.

The disorders are often related to delayed development. The good thing is that it is possible to treat an attachment disorder and form a healthy bond with the child. 

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Other causes of attachment disorders include prolonged crying without comfort or care, lack of attention, isolation, irregular care, and separation.

Attachment disorders sometimes develop in babies and children who move from one caregiver to another because of the loss of a parent, adoption, or foster care. 

If you are curious about attachment styles and how to develop a healthy attachment with your child, then you can look at the articles and resources at BetterHelp.

Whether the child has been diagnosed with an attachment disorder or not, learning how to create secure attachment can help you form a lasting bond with your child.

Also, knowing the two types of attachment disorders and their differences can help you recognize whether your child is exhibiting signs and symptoms. 


Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

This type of attachment disorder makes it hard to form healthy connections with other people. It can also involve symptoms related to emotional management, lack of trust, low self-esteem, anger, and a strong need for control. 

Children diagnosed with RAD will be unlikely to seek comfort when they feel unsafe or distressed.

They may seem more withdrawn than their peers and may not seem to enjoy being comforted by their parent or primary caregiver. In some cases, they may also be aggressive. 

Recognizing Attachment Disorders in Children Signs To Look For And How To Identify Them

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED)

This disorder causes children to seek comfort with almost everyone and typically does not prefer their parents or guardians over strangers. They may not become anxious or distressed when their parent is not around. 

They may have difficulty forming strong connections with other people and may even act very dependent on others. They may also act immature and anxious.

Many parents of children who are diagnosed with DSED fear that their kids may talk to strangers that could harm them. 

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How to Recognize Attachment Disorders

The signs of an attachment disorder can vary from one child to the next and the sooner that you can recognize the symptoms and address the insecure attachment, the better. While it is never too late to treat attachment disorders, catching them during infancy or early childhood can prevent the condition from developing further.


Signs In Infants

These are early symptoms of potential attachment disorders that begin in infancy and may continue into early childhood.  

An infant exhibiting signs of insecure attachment may avoid eye contact and they may not smile as much as other babies their age.

They are less likely to reach toward the caregiver in hopes of being picked up and may not respond comfortably to attempts to calm or soothe them. 

When the parent or caregiver leaves them, they may not seem to care or even notice that the adult left them alone. A baby with insecure attachment may also be difficult to console and they can spend a significant amount of time comforting themselves or rocking back and forth. 

They may not be interested in playing games or with toys, especially with others. The baby may not coo or make consonant sounds and may have a hard time following the parent or caregiver with their eyes. 


Signs in Young Children

These signs and symptoms are more likely to occur with young children. 

A child with reactive attachment disorder may have an aversion to touch and try to avoid being touched. They may flinch away from affection or appear uncomfortable when being held.

In some cases, they will respond to touch in a way similar to pain and can become agitated and anxious when they have to hug, shake hands, or display feelings of affection. 

Children with RAD may also do everything they can to stay in control and may become argumentative or defiant otherwise. This can lead to anger, aggressiveness, tantrums, and even passive-aggressive behavior.

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They may have an underdeveloped conscience and may not show guilt or remorse for bad behavior. 

With DSED, you may recognize that the child has a hard time showing empathy, care, and affection.

They may act inappropriately with strangers and be extremely talkative or overly physical with adults that they do not know. This corresponds with a lack of healthy affection for parents or caregivers. 


How is Attachment Disorder Treated?

Attachment disorder has signs and symptoms related to other disorders like autism and ADHD and there are a variety of conditions that can correlate with attachment disorders including ADHD, conduct disorder, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, and specific phobia.

Because of this, if you identify symptoms, you need to talk with a pediatrician for a proper diagnosis. 

It is also important to keep in mind that helping a child to develop a healthy attachment is to have a healthy environment that is stable and comforting.

In addition, some professional treatment options can help to resolve some of the symptoms and problems. 

Psychotherapy can be effective for attachment disorders and can involve the child and the caregivers. Family therapy can help the members learn healthy ways to interact, communicate, and respond to each other.

Social skills training can also be good for children with attachment disorder because it helps children learn how to be around other people in a healthy manner. When searching for the best aba therapy near me, it’s essential to explore various resources and centers to find the most suitable and effective therapy for your child



Attachment is important and a healthy bond between a child and their primary caregiver will begin to develop in early infancy. If this connection does not form a secure attachment, then signs and symptoms of attachment disorders can begin to develop. These signs can vary from mild to severe, but it is always important to remember that it is never too late to address the issue and form a healthier bond with your children. 

About Marie Miguel 8 Articles
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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