Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 539–552 | Cite as

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Biopsychosocial Disturbance of Attachment



The etiology, differential diagnosis, and treatment of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) are discussed utilizing a psychodynamically-informed biopsychosocial approach. Early trauma in childhood attachment experiences alters the structures, neuro-chemicals, and connectivity of the brain. The neurobiological effects of childhood neglect equal and even surpass the impact of abuse and related trauma. This paper discusses structures in the brain involved in early emotional and attachment experiences and how they are affected by pathogenic caregiving, the absence of caregivers, or the disruption of the early caregiving environment. All three types of neglect affect the ability of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis to regulate the body and brain’s response to stress in a significant and enduring way.


Reactive Attachment Disorder Neurobiology Neglect Memory Play therapy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Clinical Social Work InstituteWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.HanoverUSA

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