Podcast #12: 

Today we’re talking about “Disorganized Attachment”    

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Resources mentioned: Here are some resources for parents wanting to learn more about how to help children with disorganized attachment or RADS:

Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children by Daniel A. Hughes

Romania’s Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery by Charles A Nelson

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Krista and Dr. Barbara

Episode 12 – Disorganized Attachment

Characteristics of parents

  • Their children are most at risk for abuse or neglect
  • Often come from their own background of trauma
  • Low capacity for patience, empathy
  • Little ability to tolerate frustration and stress
  • Very punitive in discipline, and use shaming 
  • They use fear in attempt to change behavior
  • Inconsistent expressions of love, mixed messages and confusion
  • Profoundly self absorbed—leave children for long periods of time
  • Fail to protect their children—expose them to inappropriate experiences, movies
  • No attunement to the child’s needs—but very absorbed with their own


  • Bounce between anxiety, fear and anger—live in a constant state of stress and dysregulation
  • Demonstrates characteristics of both the avoidant and ambivalently attached child.  
  • Kids will be very unpredictable  and respond in different ways to different experiences
  • They learn that the adults in their life can’t be trusted to take care of them and keep their welfare 
  • They live in a chronic state of hypervigilence constantly checking the environment for threat
  • They live in a chronic state of self protection the slightest threat elicits an overwhelming emotional response
  • They protect their hearts by fighting for control—their thinking is that when you lose control bad things happen
  • They often push others away and reject them before they can be rejected
  • They can appear to be oppositional but what drives their behavior is fear of letting others in
  • Tearing down the walls can be very challenging
  • Can be very hard for foster or adoptive parents when all they want to do is love their children.  
  • Situation where mental health professionals are needed

Reactive Attachment Disorder

  • Profound abuse of the worst kind
  • Institutional orphanages
  • Lost capacity to form human relationships
  • Toxic to the  mind, body and soul
  • Demonstrate bizarre  behaviors at a very young age
  • Mutilate animals, jumping off the roof to their house, harming other children , setting fire to their homes
  • As get older can be very charming and endear themselves to people
  • Trust bandit
  • Dealing with these children requires specialized knowledge

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Nurturing Healthy Attachment: Building Parent-Child Connections to Last a Lifetime

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