Attachment Disorder & Trauma

Attachment between a parent and child is life's primary connection. It has exceedingly important implications for the child's future. A secure attachment facilitates a child's physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional development, and is an essential factor in learning how to love and trust others and oneself.

There is evidence that the bonding process begins in utero, during the nine-month period the child is developing in his birth mother. The attachment process continues during the subsequent 24-36 months, as the child expresses his physical and emotional needs for nurture, which are met by his mother. The child begins to develop a feeling of trust that he will be taken care of, and that the world is a safe place.

If this reciprocal process is disrupted, an attachment impairment, or Reactive Attachment Disorder, may develop. Multiple traumas compound the problem, which can impact a child's ability to trust and attach. Experts in the field of treating trauma have recently developed a term for this combination of multiple and prolonged early interpersonal traumas and emotional neglect as Developmental Trauma Disorder.

Indicators for children-at-risk include:

  • abuse
  • neglect
  • physical loss of a parent due to death or adoption (even on day one)
  • multiple caretakers due to foster care or orphanage stay
  • emotional absence or unavailability of a parent due to post-partum or chronic depression
  • chronic, unrelieved pain in the child

For many children, their pre-adoptive traumas have left them unable to trust that the adults in their lives will care for them, keep them safe, and not abandon them. Yet in order for an adopted child to attach, not only does she need parents who will give her love, but she needs to be able to accept that love, which she cannot do if she cannot trust. This inability to trust leads children with an attachment impairment to display an excessive desire to control others and their environment. They may have rageful tantrums, avoid affection except on their own terms, have poor eye contact, be exceedingly charming to the public yet especially difficult at home. They may be clingy and demanding of attention, chatter excessively, have difficulty sleeping and have abnormal eating habits.

Unfortunately these symptoms may mimic or overlap those of other disorders such as ADHD, Bi-polar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), leading to frequent misdiagnosis and failed treatments. Worse, parents may be blamed for inadequate parenting skills or over reacting.

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Call me at (609) 217-2366 or
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I will repond within 24 hours.


For more information about attachment and trauma, click below to visit the Attach-China / International Parent's Network website:



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