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Reactive Attachment Disorder in Children - CBT Kenya
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  • Posted by: cbtkeadmin

Reactive Attachment Disorder in Children – CBT Kenya

When a baby is born, he or she has physical and safety needs that must be met quickly and consistently. But infants and young children also have emotional needs as well. They need to be nurtured, comforted by a stable and responsive caregiver who can provide a secure base for them to develop. When caregivers are unstable or unresponsive during the first few years of a child’s life, the child is at risk for developing an attachment disorder.

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a condition that is often found in children. Those suffering from it have often gone through some sort of trauma or neglect in basic care. Neglect occurs when the individual does not form a healthy attachment to their caregiver or parent (typically their mother) before the age of five.

Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder

  • One of the most evident signs that a child has attachment disorder is the lack of eye contact. These individuals could not look straight in the eyes of the person they are talking to. It is either they bow their heads down or they look in different directions. In short, they do not want eye contact.
  • Control issues: Most children with reactive attachment disorder go to great lengths to remain in control and avoid feeling helpless. They are often disobedient, defiant, and argumentative.
  • Anger problems: Anger may be expressed directly, in tantrums or acting out, or through manipulative, passive-aggressive behavior. Children with RAD may hide their anger in socially acceptable actions, like giving a high five that hurts or hugging someone too hard.
  • Difficulty showing genuine care and affection: For example, children with reactive attachment disorder may misbehave affectionate with strangers while displaying little or no affection towards their parents.
  • An underdeveloped conscience: Children with reactive attachment disorder may act like they don’t have a conscience and fail to show guilt, regret, or remorse after misbehaving.
  • Apparently, attachment disorder makes children socially detached. They have trust issues. They do not want to make friends or at least start relationships with people. They dislike group discussions, forums and anything that involves being in a circle of people.

Prevention of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Infants and children need a safe and caring environment for their proper mental and physical development. Always maintain eye contact and interact with babies while attending to them. No babies are born with a lack of attachment; the circumstances and experiences cause RAD. Provide a loving, caring, and safer environment for the little ones.

  • The risk of developing RAD can be reduced by providing proper love and care to the infant. Parents must ensure that their baby’s emotional and physical needs are met continuously.
  • It is essential to interact with the baby while completing tasks such as feeding, dressing up, or cleaning up a baby on time. Babies can be happier and more interactive and forge warm relationships when they know their parents or caregivers are there for them.
  • Make eye contact while feeding or doing any other activities.
  • Try to observe and understand your baby’s cues. You may be able to interpret the needs of your baby with their cry or facial expressions.
  • Respond to a baby’s feelings with verbal or nonverbal interactions, such as a change in tone of voice, touch, and facial expressions.

Coping and support

  • Educate yourself and your family about reactive attachment disorder. Ask your pediatrician about resources or check trusted internet sites. If your child has a background that includes institutions or foster care, consider checking with relevant social service agencies for educational materials and resources.
  • Find someone who can give you a break from time to time. It can be exhausting caring for a child with reactive attachment disorder. You’ll begin to burn out if you don’t periodically have downtime. But avoid using multiple caregivers. Choose a caregiver who is nurturing and familiar with reactive attachment disorder or educate the caregiver about the disorder.
  • Practice stress management skills. For example, learning and practicing yoga or meditation may help you relax and not get overwhelmed.
  • Make time for yourself. Develop or maintain your hobbies, social engagements and exercise routine.
  • Acknowledge it’s OK to feel frustrated or angry at times. The strong feelings you may have about your child are natural. But if needed, seek professional help.


Although children are resilient, it is important for them to feel safe and learn to develop trust. Infants and young children require a stable and caring environment to grow and thrive. The basic needs of a child must be both recognized and met. For example; when a baby cries, the caregiver will need to recognize the infant’s need (perhaps a diaper change or a meal) and be able to meet that need.

In addition to simply meeting the need of the child, the caregiver must also meet the child with an emotional exchange such as eye contact, a smile, or loving touch. When a child’s needs are not met, or when those needs are not met with an emotional connection, the child will learn not to expect it.

Welcome to CBT Kenya

You may start by visiting your child’s pediatrician. However, you may be referred to a child psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of reactive attachment disorder or a pediatrician specializing in child development.

CBT-Kenya (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Kenya) counseling center offers counseling and therapy sessions for persons from all walks of life. We focus on helping clients gain insight into themselves by going through a healing process. Our purpose is to help you to achieve your therapeutic and life goals, to improve the quality of your life and to help you to build strong relationships in your life. Get in touch or book an appointment on +254 739 935 333, +254 756 454 585 or info@cbtkenya.org.

Author: cbtkeadmin
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