How Common Are Attachment Disorders with Adopted Children?

puzzle There is no real statistical information about how common attachment disorders are in the general population. Research does indicate that attachment disorders do happen with biological children. In many cases, attachment disorders may happen as a result of prolonged hospital stays for the child, parent, or primary caregiver. There is also strong indication that children who grow up in neglectful or abusive homes fail to develop the needed skills to properly attach or relate to other people.

Attachment disorders happen most frequently with adopted toddlers and children. Especially with children in foster care and state adoptions who have come from neglectful and abusive homes. Children adopted internationally are also at high risk for attachment disorders especially if they were in an institutional environment for prolonged periods of time during the critical development stage of forming healthy attachments.

Some experts suggest that any child who has been removed from their home will be emotionally disturbed. Children who were neglected or abused may have never formed a healthy attachment in the first place. The very early healthy attachment occurs when babies are under the age of 18 months. Children who have been moved often or had more then three primary caregivers before the age of five are at high risk for attachment issues.

Like other childhood problems, attachment disorders can be considered on a continuum from mild to very severe. Children who are adopted as newborns have lower risks for developing attachment disorders if their adoptive parents are able to bond and provide normal care for the new baby. However, even newborn adopted children can develop attachment disorders if the adoptive parents suffer from severe depression or Post Adoption Depression (PAD) or are neglectful in meeting the needs and demands of an infant.

Many foster children have difficulty forming attachments in new settings. International adopted children may have added stress of learning a new language and living in a new culture which adds to their inability to attach.

It is often said, “Children are resilient” however, a child’s disinterest or inability to bond becomes a true disorder when they are unwilling or unable to attach in a positive situation. Some children are unable to understand their avoidance and distance doesn’t protect them from anything other than love and inclusion with others and a family. Children who have had to learn the skills of self protection may not be able to understand that these skills are no longer needed in their loving adoptive family. Most children with attachment disorders don’t see what they do as a problem, they believe that everyone around them has a problem.

Photo credit for this blog entry: sxc (no use restrictions for this photo)

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For more information about parenting special needs children you might want to visit the Families.com Special Needs Blog and the Mental Health Blog. Or visit my personal website.

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