Attachment Difficulties / Attachment Disorder (Children)

What is Attachment?

Attachment is a lasting ‘psychological connectedness’ (or emotional bond) between a child and his/her parents (or primary caregivers). In order for children to develop healthy/secure attachments, parents or caregivers need to be consistently available to respond to a child's needs for safety, comfort and love. The sensitivity and appropriateness of a parent's interactions with their child is also vital for the development of secure attachments. Indeed, secure attachments are most likely to form with those who respond accurately to child's signals, rather than with the person they spend the most time with.

Ideally, parent-child relationships should develop in this way from birth. Because a baby or young child is completely dependent, they will instinctively seek such a relationship  Unfortunately, certain circumstances prevent the development of secure attachments. For example, in situations where a child is separated from his/her primary caregivers, where a caregiver has been physically or emotionally unavailable, or where there has been abuse or neglect.

The quality, or security of a child's attachments has a significant impact on their social, emotional and cognitive development. This is partly because early ‘attachment relationships’ serve as a blueprint for future social relationships and because they inform a child about their sense of self and self-worth. The quality of a child's attachments also have an impact on a child's biology, for example on their physical ability to regulate anxiety. Therefore disrupted or unhealthy attachments can have serious and long-lasting consequences on a child's well-being.


Attachment Difficulties

Attachment difficultiesAttachment difficulties are generally characterised by problematic social relationships, emotional and behavioural difficulties (which can continue into adulthood). Difficulties might include apparent ‘numbness’, withdrawal and avoidance of relationships, fear/anxiety, low mood, self-harm, and aggression. An overly ‘clingy’ infant, or an indiscriminately friendly child might also indicate the presence of attachment difficulties. In the case of looked after and adopted children, emotional and social difficulties can often be attributed to an underlying fear of abandonment – a psychological insecurity resulting from past experiences. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect are likely to have additional developmental problems including learning difficulties and problems with physical health.

Attachment Difficulties are sometimes referred to as 'Attachment Disorder' or 'Reactive Attachment Disorder' (RAD).


Help for Attachment Difficulties

At Purple House we can provide in-depth psychological assessment in order to investigate the nature of a child's difficulties and to plan a way forward. Following this, we can provide Attachment Focused Therapy (AFT), as well as Consultancy Services, as appropriate.

Please contact us for further information.



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