Attachment disorder: Early disruption can lead to lasting difficulty
Did your child experience:
- repeated change in caregivers in his or her early years? or
- caregiving that failed to meet his or her most basic emotional or physical needs?
Does your child show:
- severe difficulties in his response or relationship to his caregivers now?
- a lack of attachment or even basic regard for his caregivers?
- more affection and warmth with strangers than with his or her parents?
- guardedness or watchfulness even after years of good care?
- positive emotional responses unpredictably combined with resistance to closeness and connection?
Your child may have an attachment disorder.
A child’s sense that he or she can rely on a caregiver to feel safe is so fundamental that when it is disrupted, the consequences can be severe and lasting. Even when the child is settled with caregivers who could provide this sense of safety, often the child cannot accept it fully. Many other difficulties can be present along with the attachment problem, including problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity and other problems with self-control, mood problems, and anxiety. Learning difficulties are common. Because these troubles are so apparent, the fundamental attachment problem is often missed.
You have come to the right place for help with your child’s attachment problems. We have decades of experience working with children with early disruptions, including published research on early attachment.
Parenting a child with an attachment disorder
It’s not easy to raise children with attachment problems. Children develop expectations of how caregivers will respond based on their early experience. These expectations or models can be very hard to change, even with new caregivers or change in caregivers’ responses. So kids with problems in their early attachment relationships may have trouble connecting with caregivers, even when the caregivers are able to provide sensitive and responsive care.
Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need close and comforting relationships with caregivers in order to learn to handle their emotions. They cannot do this on their own, but in connection with a caregiver. Over time, children learn to handle their emotions more on their own. Because of their difficult early experiences, kids with attachment disorders never developed their ability to handle or regulate their emotions on their own. Because of lingering distrust in caregivers, they are also unable to rely on them for comfort and support. So kids with attachment problems are subject to intense emotional storms and feel helpless and alone with them. They can be aggressive and oppositional with frequent tantrums, rages, or loss of self control. They may hoard food and be secretive and suspicious.
We can help. We will work together with you in attachment focused family therapy so that you can use the many opportunities in your daily life with your child to help him learn to connect with you and others, become more flexible, and to stay calm and cope with life. We will also help you to better manage the stress of parenting and to maintain a strong partnership and supportive social network. Learn more.