What Are the Signs of Attachment Disorder in Children?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 December 2018
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The signs of attachment disorder in children vary according to the age of the child, the child's personality and the circumstances in which the child is observed. The severity of the attachment disorder may also have a significant impact on its symptoms. In infants, attachment disorder may manifest itself as disinterest in interacting with other people, along with a rejection of any efforts by adults to soothe him. Attachment disorder in children is evidenced by a disturbance in behavior, though these disturbances can vary significantly depending on the child. Children who have attachment disorder may demonstrate a significant hostility toward caregivers and authority figures, but may under some circumstances be inappropriately affectionate with strangers which can in some cases make diagnosing the disorder difficult.

In infants, attachment disorder can be observed in the way the baby responds to others. Babies with healthy attachment will indicate to a caregiver when they need attention and will generally accept affection from its caregiver particularly when the baby is in need of care or soothing. In cases of disrupted attachment, a baby may appear to be sad or unhappy but will not seek soothing nor will the child accept soothing from his primary caregiver or other adults. The baby may even attempt to soothe himself by rocking himself to sleep, all the while rejecting this type of comfort from third parties.


Attachment disorder in children may begin to manifest itself as an attachment disordered baby becomes mobile. As the child does not have a secure attachment to a caregiver, a child may walk or crawl away from his caregiver without looking to see if he is being followed or watched. The child may also resist social overtures by other children and adults. On the other hand, some children said to have “disinhibited” reactive attachment disorder may demonstrate a stronger interest in interacting with strangers or acquaintances than their primary caregivers or own families.

Other symptoms of attachment disorder in children can include regular rages and tantrums, aggression toward others and in some cases, inappropriate sexual behavior. When confronted about their behavior, these children may not express any remorse or guilt about their behavior and may seem impervious to punishment. These children may also demonstrate a resistance toward accepting or asking for help from others. As they grow older, other signs of emotional disturbance may emerge, including drug and alcohol abuse as well as various types of antisocial behavior.



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