How do children with attachment disorders react?

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Answered by: Maranda, An Expert in the Adopting a Child Category
Many adoptive parents are so excited by the prospect of adding a child to their family that they tend to tune out any negative information. However, for an adoption to be successful, it really is important to listen closely to the case history of the child you are considering. Many adoptive parents are told that their child has some kind of attachment disorder, but like most optimistic new parents, they often tend to think that love and affection can fix anything. I wish that were true, but sometimes it takes more than that.

Children with attachment disorders won't respond like kids who have learned to attach securely. They view the world in an entirely different way than typical children. To them, the world is a scary place and authority figures are not to be trusted. It can take years of therapy and stability before these children will start to trust and care about others.

There are many theories as to what causes attachment disorders. It is pretty obvious that children who suffered neglect or abuse during the first years of their lives are more prone to attachment problems. It can also make it hard for a child to form new attachments if they have formed attachments in the past that were broken. Attachment problems are especially common among foster and adoptive children because they have often suffered some kind of neglect, abuse or tragedy. An exception might be children who have been with their adoptive parents since birth or soon after; although there are still cases of adopted children not bonding with their adoptive parents even if they have been with them from birth.

Attachment is a hard thing to define, prove or show someone else. Our behavior and attitude are often the first indications that something is wrong. A baby who never seems to want to be held by its mother, a toddler who shows no remorse for any wrongdoing, a young child who has no sympathy or compassion, a teenager who steals, lies and violently hurts others with no visable conscience - these are all possible signs of an attachment disorder.

To make matters worse, many parents who enter into an adoption with unrealistic expectations end up giving the child back when they can't attach to them. This only makes it more likely that the child will continue to have their negative view of the world and will never attach securely to anyone. A much better approach would be to consider the problems you might have attaching to a child before the adoption and have a plan ready if you do run into this issue.

Make sure that you have a list of therapists in your area who specialize in attachment disorders. The sooner you can get your child into therapy to deal with their attachment problems, the more likely you are to succeed in overcoming the issues. It is important that you, as the adoptive parent, participate in the therapy as well. The therapist will likely give you tips and tricks to deal with your child. These ideas may seem a little radical and strange at first, but children with attachment disorders are different from other children and do need to be related to in a way that they can understand.

A good resource to find attachment therapists in your area is On this website you can find a list of therapists who specialize in attachment and have been recommended by other families.

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