Developmental Trauma and Reactive Attachment Disorder



A child with extreme behavioral problems can be both a challenge and a mystery to their parents or caregivers. Children who are labeled “challenging” often have experienced recurring developmental trauma in their early life that can continue to negatively affect them. As adolescents, they may be diagnosed as having developmental trauma disorder or reactive attachment disorder.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a condition in which a young child’s needs, either physical or emotional, are not met. In these cases, as an adolescent, they are unable to effectively establish healthy attachments and relationships. Most attachment disorders are a result of early childhood trauma.

Symptoms of Developmental Trauma

Developmental Trauma Disorder is a newer diagnosis for those who have experienced repeated developmental trauma as children. With developmental trauma disorder, the underlying traumatic events are chronic and affect multiple areas of development including neurological, cognitive and psychological development as well as attachment development. Symptoms of Developmental Trauma Disorder can include out-of-control behavior, nightmares, learning difficulties and defiance for authority, among others.

Developmental Trauma Disorder vs. Reactive Attachment Disorder

Although these conditions share some similarities, they are two different conditions. Developmental Trauma Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorders are closely related and are sometimes confused with one another. Both disorders originated from early childhood trauma however, because a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder was never able to develop a bond with their primary caregiver, they lack the ability to give and receive affection.

Parental Involvement is Crucial

There is assistance for parents and caregivers looking to help their adolescent confront the developmental trauma they experienced and learn coping skills. Enrolling your child in a residential treatment program specializing in developmental trauma disorder and other related disorders can combine intensive therapy with structure and nurturing. Parental involvement is a crucial key to a child’s success at a residential treatment program. Cementing the bonds between a parent and a child will put them on the path to becoming an emotionally stable adult who is able to create healthy attachments.

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