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Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Attachment is all about building relationships

by Dore Frances, M.A., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Here we go again. Multiple calls from multiple parents all saying that the residential program and in some cases wilderness programs they chose for their child says they specialize in Attachment Disorders. Just because someone runs an adoption group, or has a lot of adopted kids in their program, does not mean they specialize in attachment issues.

Unless you know what you are talking about, have had some very specific training, (no, that does not mean you just went to a seminar) and know what kinds of actions and words can set off a child that is truly dealing with attachment issues, you may be adding to an already frustrating and painful situation.

Humans need attachments with others for their psychological and emotional development as well as for their survival.

Infants need to be physically close to the mother and be able to receive and give affection to form an enduring emotional bond. Children need to feel that they are safe, that they will not be abandoned, and that they are loved and valued. And when in residential treatment or in a wilderness program, being safe, not feeling abandoned from your peer group, and being valued even when you are displaying anger is extremely important for a child dealing with attachment issues. When a relationship is emotionally distant and inconsistent, then the child learns not to trust or care and believes that one is all alone in the world. So, being in a residential or wilderness setting and having a large change over in staff, or having inconsistent relationships, is very lonely for a child dealing with attachment, and they will react in a negative way. When a child is fighting attachment issues, they feel that they are unlovable, as if a part of them suffocated and died. Just stop and think about that for a moment. Just as connectedness is our most basic need, isolation is our most injurious state. And I am hearing that this is happening far too often as a consequence for behavior outbursts in residential treatment.

Healing from attachment deficits involves two factors:

First, it requires finding safe, warm relationships in which emotional needs will be accepted and loved, not criticized and judged.

Second, repair requires taking risks with our needs.

These are genuine risks. . . . When those unattached parts of the self become connected to others, our ability to tolerate loss of love increases. The more we internalize, the less we need the world to approve of us constantly.

Attachment Disorder is a mental and emotional condition.

It stems from the lack of connectedness in the person's most significant relationship and manifests itself as fear of connection taken to the extreme. Traditionally it has been believed that children who have been orphaned or abused and neglected are the primary victims of poor bonding and attachment. In our two-income society, however, a new phenomenon has emerged.

Children are being overindulged by parents who have more money then time to spend with them. The result is that children are being raised in financially secure, but emotionally empty environments, with little discipline and structure.

Currently this most common form of neglect is also the most socially acceptable. The societal ramifications of children who are overindulged and often emotionally left can be as severe as children who are considered attachment disordered due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, and multiple moves.

Attachment-disordered children are guided only by what they want at the moment. Their focus is self-centered and selfish and there is no concern for how their behavior impacts others. Additionally, there are almost always co-existing diagnoses. Those that truly specialize in attachment disorders and provide a strong parent support system are necessary for successful intervention.

Dore Frances, M.A., is an educational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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