Your doctor or therapist may have mentioned the idea that your child has RAD, and one of your first thoughts may be “Aren’t all kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder violent?” Your child may not be violent, and you may be thinking that it is an incorrect diagnosis because of this. However, children with RAD who exhibit violence are at one extreme of the RAD spectrum. Not all children with RAD are violent.
What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?
Reactive Attachment Disorder goes far beyond typical childhood irresponsibility and tantrums. As these kids grow older, they may display rage, screaming, swearing, damage of your possessions, manipulation and, occasionally, violence. Many parents wonder if their child is intentionally setting out to destroy the family.
According to author and child advocate, Stephen Raburn, to understand RAD you must realize that it has its roots in early infancy and childhood. Kids with RAD frequently experienced abuse or neglect. RAD kids may have been born into the homes of adults suffering with depression, addictions, or illnesses, or they may have experienced time in an orphanage. Because of the chaos of their early environment, RAD kids learned very early that reaching out for their needs was pointless. As a result, they never learn to bond to a caregiver. This lack of bonding leads to a lack of development in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This is the thinking, feeling, and communicating part of the brain, and in neglected or abused kids the cerebral cortex is smaller than in typically developing kids.
Reactive Attachment Disorder and Violence May Not Go Hand in Hand.
Violence, sociopathy, and destructive behavior are extremes of RAD behavior, but they are not necessarily hallmarks of the disorder. Because neurotransmitters in the brain are affected by the early environment, RAD kids suffer from a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptom of RAD is a fear of needing other people. These kids never learn to trust others and avoid intimacy at all costs. In fact, the idea of trusting or attaching to anyone causes a RAD kid irrational terror. They will fight against their human need for intimacy and acceptance.
Other symptoms of RAD include rages and shame. They also struggle to understand basic cause and effect relationships, so typical parenting techniques like punishments and rewards are hopelessly confusing to a child with RAD. Reactive Attachment kids also have an extreme need to control everything, because they never again want to face the chaos and abandonment that they experienced in the past.
There is Hope for Kids With Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Without intensive intervention, kids with RAD seldom learn how to have fulfilling personal relationships. They may spend their entire life alienating the people they care most about. In foster care, these kids spend years bouncing from home to home as their behavior deteriorates, and they get labeled as un-adoptable.
There is hope, however, for kids with RAD. Some scientists do believe that areas of the brain damaged in early infancy and childhood can be healed. Skilled therapists can work with the whole family to retrain areas of the child’s brain and promote healing. Therapists will work with the parents to promote attachment with the child and give the child a sense of security. In therapy, the child can receive social coaching and behavioral techniques to manage the big feelings of abandonment, anger, and confusion. The earlier the child receives therapy the more successful the outcome.
Even if your child does not have violent tendencies, he or she can still be suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder. When you understand the root causes and effects of this disorder you can stop wondering if all kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder are violent.
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