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“An affectionate bond between two individuals that endures through space and time and serves to join them emotionaly.”
(Vera Fahlberg, M.D.)

Attachment helps the child to:

  • attain his full intellectual potential
  • sort out what he perceives
  • think logically
  • develop a conscience
  • become self-reliant
  • cope with stress and frustration
  • handle fear and worry
  • develop future relationships
  • reduce jealousy (Fahlberg)
“Not only does a healthy attachment insure the child’s physical survival, “…it allows him to develop both trust in others and reliance on himself.” (Vera Fahlberg. M.D.)

Quotes are from:
High Risk:Children Without a Conscience
by Dr. Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey


An attachment disorder is a mental and emotional condition occurring in the first two years of life that causes a child not to attach, to bond, or to trust his primary caretaker.

Children with attachment disorders have trouble trusting others. Trusting means to love–and loving hurts. They have been hurt too deeply. Loving must be done on their terms so that they will not be hurt again. They attempt to control everyone and everything in their world. No one gets into their world, past their barriers, without proving that they are truly trustworthy.

“Unattached children…have an uncanny ability to appear attractive, bright, loving…helpless, hopeless, lost…or promising, creative, and intelligent, as may suit their needs at the time. Therefore, strangers, helpful neighbors, even therapists, often see the parents as the problem and believe the winsome child is ‘beautiful’. . .” (Foster Cline, 1979)

Adoptive parents wonder why? “I’m not the one that hurt him. I am trying to give him love.”

To understand the “why”, we must look at the child’s life, especially the first two years. 


Any of the following factors, expecially occurring to a child during their first two years of life, puts a child at high risk of developing an attachment disorder:

  • Maternal drug and/or alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Drug addicted infant
  • Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
  • Neglect
  • Sudden separation from primary caretaker (i.e. illness or death of mother or chronic illness or hospitalization of child)
  • Undiagnosed and/or painful illness (i.e. colic or chronic ear infections)
  • Frequent moves or placements
  • Inconsistent or inadequate daycare
  • Chronic maternal depression
  • teenage mothers with poor parenting skills

    This is not a diagnostic tool. If you think your child has an attachment disorder, contact an attachment therapist for an evaluation.

    Taken from a pamphlet–“Parents for Attachment”

    Understanding the causes of attachment disorder, helps us to understand why adopted and foster children would have a high propensity towards attachment difficulties. Generally, the adopted/foster child has covered many of those categories in his short life.
    The next question then, is how would a child with Attachment Disorder behave? 


    All or most of these symptoms will be present in an attachment disordered child.

    • Superficially engaging and “charming”.
      Cute is control and safe
    • Lack of eye contact on parents terms
    • Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
    • Not affectionate on parents terms
    • Destructive to self (accident prone), others, and/or things
    • Cruel to animals
    • Stealing
    • Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)
    • No impulse control (frequently acts hyperactive)
    • Learning lags
    • Lack of cause and effect thinking
    • Lack of conscience
    • Abnormal eating patterns (hoarding or gorging on food)
    • Poor peer relations
    • Preoccupation with fire
    • Persistent nonsense questions and/or incessant chatter
    • Inappropriately demanding and/or clingy
    • Abnormal speech patterns
    • Preoccupation with blood and gore
    • Extreme control battles
    • Parents feel hostile and angry