Psych Central

Reactive Attachment Disorder Symptoms

By Psych Central Staff

The essential feature of Reactive Attachment Disorder is markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts that begins before age 5 years and is associated with grossly pathological care (Criterion A). There are two types of presentations. In the Inhibited Type, the child persistently fails to initiate and to respond to most social interactions in a developmentally appropriate way. The child shows a pattern of excessively inhibited, hypervigilant, or highly ambivalent responses (e.g., frozen watchfulness, resistance to comfort, or a mixture of approach and avoidance) (Criterion A1).

In the Disinhibited Type, there is a pattern of diffuse attachments. The child exhibits indiscriminate sociability or a lack of selectivity in the choice of attachmentfigures (Criterion A2). The disturbance is not accounted for solely by developmental delay (e.g., as in Mental Retardation) and does not meet criteria for Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Criterion B).

By definition, the condition is associated with grossly pathological care that may take the form of persistent disregard of the child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection (Criterion C1); persistent disregard of the child’s basic physical needs (Criterion C2); or repeated changes of primary caregiver that prevent formation of stable attachments (e.g., frequent changes in foster care) (Criterion C3). The pathological care is presumed to be responsible for the disturbed social relatedness (Criterion D).

Specific Symptoms of Attachment Disorder

A. Markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts, beginning before age 5 years, as evidenced by either (1) or (2):

        (1) persistent failure to initiate or respond in a developmentally appropriate fashion to most social interactions, as manifest by excessively inhibited, hypervigilant, or highly ambivalent and contradictory responses (e.g., the child may respond to caregivers with a mixture of approach, avoidance, and resistance to comforting, or may exhibit frozen watchfulness)     (2) diffuse attachments as manifest by indiscriminate sociability with marked inability to exhibit appropriate selective attachments (e.g., excessive familiarity with relative strangers or lack of selectivity in choice of attachment figures)

B. The disturbance in Criterion A is not accounted for solely by developmental delay (as in Mental Retardation) and does not meet criteria for a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

C. Pathogenic care as evidenced by at least one of the following:

    (1) persistent disregard of the child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection     (2) persistent disregard of the child’s basic physical needs     (3) repeated changes of primary caregiver that prevent formation of stable attachments (e.g., frequent changes in foster care)

D. There is a presumption that the care in Criterion C is responsible for the disturbed behavior in Criterion A (e.g., the disturbances in Criterion A began following the pathogenic care in Criterion C).

There are two types of attachment disorder:

Inhibited Type.

    In this subtype, the predominant disturbance in social   relatedness is the persistent failure to initiate and to respond to most   social interactions in a developmentally appropriate way.

Disinhibited Type.

    This subtype is used if the predominant disturbance in   social relatedness is indiscriminate sociability or a lack of selectivity   in the choice of attachment figures.

 

 

APA Reference
Psych Central. (2013). Reactive Attachment Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/reactive-attachment-disorder-symptoms/

Symptom criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
        or
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 May 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.