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Attachment Disorder in Children

A severe neglect of the child causes 'Attachment Disorder' in children.
Rujuta Borkar Jan 9, 2019
Lack of a bond between the parent and child makes the child feel lonely and insecure; and can form the basis of 'Attachment Disorder' in kids. Let's see its symptoms and treatments.
Let's start off with an example. Think back to your childhood and how, whenever you fell down, were scared, or had a bad dream perhaps, you called out to your parents and they comforted you. Thus making you feel safe instantly. You had the confidence that if you reached out for your parents, they would care for you and make you feel secure again.
Why did that confidence come about? Because of the bond that you had built with your parents. That bond was so strong that you knew that you could depend on them and that the confidence you had in them would never be broken.
The bond that develops between a child and his parents in the early years of a child's life, has a lot of impact on the personality development of the child. In that way it shapes the way in which he will handle different situations in his later life. But what if that bond is not formed?

Details of the Disorder

This is a condition that is characterized by the inability of a child to form long-lasting, strong and meaningful relationships. The basis of this condition is chronic and severe neglect or abuse during early childhood. There are several other reasons for why this disorder can come about as well.
This can happen for a number of reasons like separation from the mother, constant change in the caregivers at infancy, no comforting force when the child is crying, is wet or needs something, abusive caregivers and in-cognizance by caregivers of the efforts taken by the child to form any sort of bond because of their own problems like depression and drugs.
When a baby is born, it has certain basic needs which have to be fulfilled. These include the need for touch, eye contact, nourishment, smile and movement. If these needs of a child are fulfilled, it leads to the development of a strong bond between the parent and child.
The child thus learns to view the world as a good place, learns to interact with others, form proper relationships and it affects his emotional and mental status positively as well. In that way, he becomes a proper member of society.
If parents neglect the child and do not give him the love he needs, then the child starts to view the world as a bad place. It influences his subsequent behavior, his mental setup and adjustment in society. He feels he has to fend for himself and if he lets people come close to him, they will hurt him. He learns to detach himself from the people around him.
The child begins to believe that he is alone in this world and that there is no one to care for him.


How does one know that a child is suffering from an attachment disorder? Attachment disorder manifests itself in the form of several symptoms like:
  • As a baby, cries frequently and cannot be consoled easily.
  • Avoids making eye contact.
  • Does not want to be picked.
  • Does not smile.
  • Prefers to remain aloof.
  • Rejects any efforts that are made to calm and soothe him.
  • Does not allow others to connect with him.
  • As a baby, does not make cooing and other baby sounds.
  • Does not care if he is left alone.
  • Does not mingle and interact with other kids his age. Does not like playing games with other kids or playing with toys either.
  • Does not follow movement with eyes.
  • Does not display affection, remorse, guilt or empathy.
  • Very affectionate with strangers, but may be completely indifferent towards caregivers.
  • Displays anger, restlessness, is prone to moodiness and violence. All these are signs of trying to be in control.
  • Signs of destructive behavior meted out on objects and animals is also observed.
  • Tells blatant lies.
  • Has selfish traits like hoarding food.


That this disorder severely affects the adjustment, normal development and behavior of a child, is clear. That is why it becomes important to undertake certain treatment forms to correct this behavior and help the child form normal and long-lasting relationships in life.
The treatment for this condition becomes easier to undertake if the condition is diagnosed in early childhood. This is because, as the child grows, he learns and adopts more severe forms of this condition, which could even manifest as attachment disorder in adults. Dealing with which becomes tougher. These are some of the treatment methods implemented.

Family and Child Therapy

This is generally used as a tool to help both the parent (or the caregiver) and the child involved. The parents are given a thorough understanding of this condition and are taught how to deal with the child.
They are made to discuss the kind of problems that they might face and what are the things that can be done to handle it. Similarly, they are taught about the varied means by which the child will feel secure and wanted.

The Counseling Technique

The counseling technique might also be used, and both the parents and children will be given advice on how to handle the varied emotions that they face.

Play Therapies

Other than these, play therapies might also be used for children in order to teach them how to interact with their peers. These include playing interactive games and learning to mix with others. As well as how to face certain social situations in life.
All these techniques have to be followed in a combination, as none of them will work exceptionally well in isolation. Other than that, it has to be understood that the 'cure' will not present itself overnight.
There has to be a consistency in actions and patience to deal with the resistance that the child might display. Yet, with time, this disorder can be corrected in children.
Reactive attachment disorder in children is not only a difficult and trying condition for the child to deal with, but is just as disturbing for the parents as well. The constant and unconditional love and support that is required does not come easy. Especially when there may or may not be a positive reaction and participation from the child.
Yet, with time, patience and love, the symptoms of this condition can be significantly lowered, if not completely treated. The condition can be prevented from being a chronic that continues into adulthood if the symptoms are traced and the necessary corrective measures taken at a right time.