Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Adult Addiction and Reactive Attachment Disorder in Children

Adult Addiction and Reactive Attachment Disorder in ChildrenReactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a developmental disorder that can affect young children and is characterized by a child not establishing healthy bonds with a parent or caregiver in the early stages of childhood. RAD produces a significant problem to the development of normal and appropriate emotional attachments with others. RAD typically presents itself in a child by the age of five but can be noticed as early as age one. A child with RAD may be unable to respond to social interactions and seem disengaged from others. In other cases a child with RAD may be over engaged with others and seem to have an inappropriate connection with total strangers. RAD can take the form of developmentally inappropriate inhibitions with others or cause the child to become too disinhibited with others. Some of the different warning signs that often persist in young children that may have RAD can include the following:

  • Excessive crying
  • Trouble feeding
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Detached behavior
  • Inability to be comforted
  • Defiant behavior
  • Disengagement from social interactions
  • Inappropriate closeness with strangers

RAD often develops because the child’s basic needs for affection are not met. This neglected need is commonly a result of one of the following:

  • Abusive parent or caregiver
  • Inadequate care at an institution or out-of-home setting such as an orphanage or foster home
  • Excessive changes in primary caregiver
  • Traumatic loss of the primary caregiver
  • Neglectful parent or caregiver

A parent or caregiver struggling with drug or alcohol addiction will often inadvertently neglect a child as a result of consuming the substance. Addiction becomes a way of life for people and the nature of it often requires an addict to neglect their basic and essential responsibilities in order to focus on obtaining and consuming their drug of choice. A young child with an addicted parent or caregiver will typically be unable to establish nurturing and affectionate bonds which could result in RAD. In other cases a drug addicted parent may lose custody of a child, forcing the child into foster care or other forms of out-of-home placement. Seeking immediate treatment for adult addiction is essential to avoiding or overcoming RAD in a child. Allowing a child with RAD to continue to go untreated can result in permanent negative results to emotional and social development later in life. Licensed mental health professionals can offer a comprehensive evaluation to determine the disorder and refer the child and family to appropriate treatment. Treatment will focus on reestablishing a healthy relationship between the child and his caregiver. The other main focuses of treatment for RAD can include the following:

  • Individualized counseling for both the child and caregiver
  • Education for caregivers
  • Parenting skills training
  • Family counseling

Treating a child with RAD can often be difficult but persistent training and counseling from qualified professionals and relational development between the child and the caregiver can provide the best results in overcoming RAD. By calling our toll-free hotline we can refer you to a qualified professional experienced in treating children with RAD.

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