Attachment Disorders


Healthy attachment is an enduring emotional connection between a child and his or her primary care-giver(s). Secure attachment is an essential building block of cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Characteristics such as empathy, capacity to love, and inhibition of aggression are all related to a child’s sense of secure attachment in the world.

For some children, attachment is disrupted through a variety of circumstances such as prenatal exposure to toxins, child abuse or neglect, the abrupt loss of or extended separation from a parent, invasive or painful medical procedures or neurological problems. A child is at highest risk of developing attachment related problems if these disruptions occur during the first two years of his or her life.

Problems of attachment fall along a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. Children with mild attachment issues may have difficulty trusting others or struggle to regulate their emotions. When the symptoms of a poorly attached child lead to profoundly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness, the child may be given the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). RAD is a serious, though rare diagnosis.

Children with attachment disorders can be helped to live fulfilling and successful lives by early identification and appropriate intervention.  Fortunately, Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties have many excellent resources and initiatives focusing on children and adolescents with attachment related problems.

Attachment Booklet or Attachment Quick Fact Sheet (for easier printing) – opens in PDF format

Attachment Classroom Strategies – opens in PDF format

Attachment Home & Family Strategies – opens in PDF format

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