PSYC 314-01: Psychopathology
Rick Shillabeer, Psy.D.
To help us to identify what reactive attachment disorder is we will first need to define what attachment is. For the purpose of this paper, attachment will be defined as the reciprocal relationship between a child and caregiver (Robertson, 2000). The development of this relationship is dependent on the caregiver’s response to the child’s needs (Robertson, 2000).
In order for a child to form a secure attachment, the child can “reliably experience security, comfort, and safety (Smith, 2006). This attachment is dependent upon the child “perceiving the attachment figure as predictable, available and competent” (Smith, 2006). Nancy Geoghegan from the Attachment Disorder Site, 2000, illustrates what a healthy and secure attachment cycle should look like as well as what a disturbed attachment cycle looks like.
Children with a disturbed attachment cycle will most likely be diagnosed with a reactive attachment disorder. Children with reactive attachment disorder have a different view of the world than we do. They did not learn that they could trust adults to keep them safe. They, in fact, learned that adults were uncaring, mean, rejecting, violent, unreliable, unresponsive, or absent. Many children with reactive attachment disorder learn that they must take care of themselves and cannot depend on their caregiver to meet their basic needs. (Attachment Disorder Site, 2000)
Reactive attachment disorder can be defined as a child’s inability to form a healthy functioning relationship with a primary care giver (Attachment Disorder Site, 2000). A child
with reactive attachment disorder typically is or has been neglected, abused or has been frequently moved from one caregiver to another never having the opportunity to establish a loving relationship with a caregiver (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2009). Attachment disorders are the result of negative
References: American Psychiatric Association. (2000) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, pp 127-130 Kemp, M.A., G., & Smith, M.A., M. (2010). Attachment Disorders &amp; Reactive Attachment Disorder Robertson, M.Ed., A. (2000) Reactive Attachment Disorder: What we need to know to help [Lecture Notes] Smith, LCSW-C, LICSW, L. B. (2006, June). Attachment Disorder. In attachmentdisordermaryland.com Smith, LCSW-C, LICSW, L. B. (2010, February). The Attachment Disorder Spectrum. In attachmentdisordermaryland.com Tully, F. G., & Brendtro, L. K. (1998). Reaching Angry and Unattached Kids. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 7(3), 147-155 Wood, M. E. (2005, March). Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Disorder of Attachment or of Temperament? Rochester Institute of Technology, 1-15