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Reactive Attachment Disorder: Writings: Professionals: Faye Snyder

Misdiagnosing Children Who Are RAD

Reactive Attachment Disorder is the result of either failure to attach to a primary caregiver or of a broken attachment. Some RAD children are diagnosed as the Inhibited Type, while others are evaluated to be the Disinhibited Type. The inhibited children seem excruciatingly shy, hypervigilant or socially ambivalent, and they resist comforting by their parent(s). The Disinhibited Type may seek to charm a parent and initiate affection to manipulate. However, they will not accept affection, if it is not their idea. RAD children may lie, steal, and commit acts of violence, because they have not attached, as they were genetically designed to do. They are angry and have no conscience or empathy to give, because they never got it. None of us could have been anything other than RAD if we walked in their shoes.

Some RAD children may seem to have always been RAD, because they were never given an opportunity to attach. On the other hand, some RAD children were once sweet and responsive little ones, but they radically changed into jaded and independent children after a major attachment break. It didn't have to be anyone's fault. A mother could have died. Maybe Mom was a single parent who had to go to work to pay for food and shelter. Unfortunately, babies don't know motives. They simply decide they don't need anyone anymore and nobody will ever break their heart again. A baby who has made that decision most likely suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, resulting from that broken attachment. These children appear like tough little cookies, but they are our most fragile children. Unfortunately, as they grow, they will probably be the ones to do the most harm to others.

What is under-recognized are the numbers of circumstances in which a child can become RAD. Many professionals in the field of psychology, even specializing in attachment, believe that the only RAD kids are foster children. They believe that the children with RAD symptoms who have stay-at-home mothers cannot be RAD. However, they can. The Uni-Bomber was a RAD kid. He was put into an isolation tent for allergies as an infant at about the age of ten months. He came back a completely changed child who grew to be an adult who hated technology on the most visceral level and hated most those responsible for promoting it.

We remember hearing about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ten years ago for their mass murder-suicide at Columbine High School. Harris was a RAD kids who was profoundly under-supervised by his parents. According to FBI released information on the two, Klebold was profoundly depressed. Harris was completely unattached.

The front page of Newsweek, May 26, 2008, held a split photo of 10-year-old Max Blake, diagnosed with Pediatric Bipolar Disorder at Tufts-New England Medical Center, a diagnosis not yet accepted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by professionals. Young Max was diagnosed in the wake of Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Joseph Biederman's research and introduction of PBD from Massachusetts General Hospital. In the meantime, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), called upon Biederman to reveal his income from drug companies. Biederman drastically underreported, as even the drug companies admitted paying him many times more than his reported amount. It is now believed that Biederman has received millions for promoting the diagnosis of PBD and its pharmaceutical treatment. I strongly suspect that Biederman is attempting to characterize broken attachments as genetic conditions, from which the pharmaceutical industry can then benefit.

I would have diagnosed Max with Reactive Attachment Disorder, resulting from failure to attach due to infant daycare. Lost in the Newsweek article was one sentence revealing that Max's mother returned to work when he was three months old. It's too bad the parents never had a proper diagnosis during the critical years, or even now. It's too bad no one is warning parents about the importance of a continuous attachment.

As I said, there is a continuum from unattached children to children who are securely attached. In between RAD kids and securely attached children are children we now diagnose with ADHD, our daycare kids. ADHD kids have been around for a few generations now, since the advent of women's liberation (and I am a feminist myself). It is my opinion that babies and toddlers who are raised in daycare are going to develop RAD or ADHD or both, whatever we call it. It is more and more popular amongst professionals to assess that most RAD kids have ADHD, as well.

Thus, RAD kids are not only the foster kids. RAD kids are growing in numbers, and many of them are next door. Some are wealthy children of a string of fired nannies. Some are twins with mothers who never had enough maternal drive to nurture one child, let alone two. Some are the result of fathers seeking joint custody from mothers they never married, while the baby is too young to be shared. Judges and child custody evaluators facilitate the attachment breaks with the mothers, because they don't realize that you can't break a bond to make one. They also don't realize that a well-attached child can easily connect with a father for life, with a little patience. But, the worst offender is daycare. We cannot put our babies in daycare. It is against every evolutionary gene in our babies' bodies. This trend is changing the nature of children in America.

Faye Snyder, PsyD

Dr. Faye Snyder is the originator of the Causal Theory, founder of the Institute for Professional Parenting, and the proud mother of Scott Clifton.

She specializes in

  • parenting education
  • attachment theory
  • healing childhood trauma
  • relationship skills
  • assessment
  • child custody evaluations and criminal assessment
  • reactive attachment disorder

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Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009



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