Advocate Resources

That's RAD! (Reactive Attachment Disorder)

2018-07 July

Healthy parent-child attachment gives children a solid foundation for their cognitive, social, and emotional development. When attachment is secure between children and caretakers, navigating life becomes easier for children. Unfortunately, child maltreatment interferes with attachment, meaning children and families CASA volunteers encounter can be struggling with attachment security. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a very rare disorder that results from non-attachment. Authors Stoddard, Benedek, Milad & Ursano (2018) wrote in their book "Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders", that "because of limited opportunities to form selective attachments, either due to social neglect of the child or frequent changes in caregiving environments (e.g., foster palcements), they do not form attachments. The critical period for attachment typically ranges from 9 months to just before 5 years of age." In other words, it’s the child’s lack of a consistent caregiver that causes problems in forming relationships with future caregivers, friends, partners, etc. Some medical professionals identify RAD as having a genetic component. 


RAD is a disruptive behavior disorder (DBD) believed to be caused by severe child neglect in early childhood. The DSM-V classifies RAD as emotionally withdrawn and inhibited behaviors. RAD’s new more targeted definition is characterized by a child who is withdrawn from caretakers, rarely seeks/responds to comfort when upset, and has persistent social and emotional disturbances. These social and emotional disturbances can be displayed by a child as minimal responsiveness to others, and irritability/sadness/fear during non-threatening social interactions.

RAD can be difficult to diagnose because it shares traits with disorders such as conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and PTSD. Professionals involved in the child welfare system who are concerned about RAD due to a child’s history should ensure the child is assessed by a medical professional familiar with diagnosing and treating RAD.

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean



Main Office:

982 Eastern Parkway Box 9

Louisville, KY 40217


Henry, Oldham & Trimble Office:

P.O. Box 225

La Grange, KY 40031

Ext. 213

Shelby & Spencer Office:

P.O. Box 1276

Shelbyville, KY 40066

Ext. 214




09:00 AM - 5:00 PM



Subscribe for Updates


(502) 595-4911
Privacy Policy