What Is Disorganized Attachment?
Disordered attachment refers to the inability of a child or adult to establish secure attachments with others. These individuals may have difficulty forming close relationships with other children, adults, or even strangers. They may exhibit signs of withdrawal such as being clingy and demanding, withdrawing from social interaction completely, or exhibiting extreme hostility towards those around them.
The term “attachment disorder” is often used to refer to these behaviors because they are symptoms of a problem that affects all types of attachment: loving, caring, trusting and so on. However, there are some differences between these disorders.
For example, one type of attachment disorder involves a lack of emotional responsiveness while another involves a lack of physical responsiveness. Another type of attachment disorder includes both psychological and physiological factors.
Attachment Disorder Symptoms
In order to diagnose an individual with an attachment disorder, it is necessary to observe the following characteristics:
Difficulty establishing secure attachments (i.e.
loving, caring relationships with others)
Inappropriate intimacy with others (i.e.
taking extreme advantage of a close relationship in a way that exploits the other person)
Failure to respond to known cues (such as a smile or cries for help)
The above three factors do not apply to infants and younger children. For this reason, it is normal for the very young to have a shorter attention span, to be less emotionally expressive, and more self-centered.
It is also normal for infants and very young children not to respond to people they do not know or who are not taking care of them.
However, if these issues persist well into childhood, a problem may be indicated. There are also cases in which younger children display these behaviors but “outgrow” them as they mature.
Disorganized Attachment Disorder
The type of attachment disorder in which there is a lack of both emotional and physical responsiveness. In some cases it is difficult to tell if the person feels anything at all.
They may simply stare blankly ahead, make little effort to communicate, and resist any form of physical contact.
Children with this disorder rarely make eye contact, show little interest in toys or other items that most children enjoy, and seem indifferent when praised or punished.
Children with disorganized attachment are also more likely to act in ways that are dangerous or harmful to themselves. In fact, it is not uncommon for a child with this disorder to have multiple injuries such as bruises and cuts.
Disorganized attachment can be the result of living in a severely abusive or neglectful household, but it can also be the result of inconsistent punishment or rewards.
A victim of child abuse may develop disorganized attachment if they experience frequent changes in caregivers. It is not uncommon for one of the parents to be extremely loving and attentive while the other parent acts in a cold and dismissive manner.
Disorganized attachment can also result from inconsistent or unpredictable child rearing practices. For example, parents who frequently yell at or hit their children but then apologize and act lovingly towards them soon afterwards will not help the child learn proper behavior.
It is important to remember that parents who suffer from this type of disorder do so unintentionally. They often love their children and want nothing more than to care for them.
However, they are often overwhelmed or incapable of providing the proper care and attention a child needs to thrive.
If you believe your actions have contributed to the development of disorganized attachment in your child, seek help immediately. The first step is realizing there is a problem and being ready to do something about it.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Disorganized attachment and caregiving by J Solomon, C George – 2011 – books.google.com
Trauma, dissociation, and disorganized attachment: Three strands of a single braid. by G Liotti – Psychotherapy: Theory, research, practice, training, 2004 – psycnet.apa.org
Disorganized attachment behavior in infancy: Short-term stability, maternal and infant correlates, and risk-related subtypes by K Lyons-Ruth, B Repacholi, S McLeod… – Development and …, 1991 – researchgate.net
Disorganized infant, child, and adult attachment: Collapse in behavioral and attentional strategies by E Hesse, M Main – Journal of the American Psychoanalytic …, 2000 – journals.sagepub.com
Disorganized attachment in early childhood: Meta-analysis of precursors, concomitants, and sequelae by D Fosha – Healing trauma: Attachment, mind, body, and brain, 2003
Unresolved states of mind, anomalous parental behavior, and disorganized attachment: A review and meta-analysis of a transmission gap by MH Van Ijzendoorn, C Schuengel… – Development and …, 1999 – core.ac.uk