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When reading below, keep in mind the following statement as it is the driving force of all attachment issues:

The fear in the child is so great that the child will not be able to attach.  The child's primary systems are working to survive, thereby making attaching to someone a low priority.  Survival is the priority.  Alleviate the fear and the child will be able to attach.

An attachment-challenged child lives with unconscious fears that become the driving force behind varying degrees of negative and often illogical, irrational behaviors.  Their greatest need is to feel safe.

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, especially 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
  • 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
  • Drug addicted infant

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.


"Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness."
         George Orwell

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