What is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?
Reactive attachment disorder refers to the physical, psychological, and even biological bond that occurs between a child and their primary caretaker, such as the mother and father. For the baby, attachment begins while in utero when nourishment is needed from the mother’s placenta. For the mother, attachment begins immediately after birth. The attachment bond can become stronger throughout infancy and childhood with more physical touch and comfort. Strong emotional and physical attachment to a parent is important for development during childhood, so that there can be secure relationships in adulthood.
For many adopted children, the attachment bond is broken—sometimes multiple times—if the child is passed around foster care before finally settling into a permanent adoptive family. This bond can be reformed over time with the proper physical and emotional care. However, adoptive children are at an increased risk for reactive attachment disorder, which results from the disruption of the attachment process by neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or frequent change in the primary caregivers in the first few years of the child’s life.