Skip to main content

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is reactive attachment disorder?

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) means your child has trouble forming bonds with people who take care of him or her. A child may become frightened and frustrated if no one responds to his or her needs, or if response is inconsistent. Your child may not be able to trust that he or she is safe and will be given what he or she needs. Your child may not form bonds with his or her parents or other caregivers he or she sees regularly. Your child may instead be openly affectionate or cling to strangers but not respond to known people.

What are the signs of RAD?

Signs of RAD develop fully by the time a child is 5 years old. You may start to notice signs when your child is about 1 year of age. As he or she gets older, you may notice the following:

What increases my child's risk for RAD?

How is RAD diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will check for any developmental delays, such as autism, that can cause symptoms of RAD. He or she will also check your child's physical development and overall health. Healthcare providers may give you questionnaires to fill out with what you notice about your child's attachment to his or her caregivers. Your child may be given toys to play with while healthcare providers observe. Your child may be asked to make up a story about people in his or her life. Healthcare providers will look for the following:

How is RAD treated?

Healthcare providers will first make sure that your child is living in a safe environment and that he or she is not being abused. A therapist can help your child's parents and caregivers learn to respond to his or her needs and bond with him or her. The therapist can teach you ways to manage your child's behavior problems in a positive and productive way. Therapy may include helping parents or caregivers talk about their own childhoods and relationships with caregivers. This may help develop a responsive relationship with your child. Parenting classes are also available. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on classes in your area.

What can I do to help my child?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2024 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.