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Is RAD Rare?

reactive attachment disorder (rad) Nov 06, 2022
woman studying with laptop

My stomach turned! Once again a gentle loving family had been misguided and hurt for years by an adoption worker telling them that RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) was rare and not to worry. When they called and described deeply concerning symptoms she told them it was “a period of adjustment” and to just wait and love the child. It would go away.


The Child was Sicker and the Parents Were Exhausted

Now after six long years of misery the child was much sicker and the parents were exhausted and financially drained by the wrong treatment that had not helped. Was it too late? How much harder would it be to help this family? Why couldn’t they have been properly trained to watch for the signs of RAD and begin the healing process right away instead of waiting until they were at the end of their rope and their child in big trouble at home and school?


Lets’ Look at the Research


  • “Approximately 2% of the U.S. population is adopted, and between 50% and 80% of such children suffer from attachment disorder symptoms, because of early maltreatment in the form of neglect and abuse…Moreover, Lyons-Ruth and Jacobvitz (1999) along with Greenberg (1999) indicate that such youngsters are likely to develop reactive attachment disorder (RAD)…”

Gray, S. (2013) Psychopathology of reactive attachment disorder. (pp337-356)   From Davis, A. S. (Ed.). (2012).   Psychopathology of Childhood and Adolescence: A Neuropsychological Approach. Springer Publishing Co.


  • “…38% of children in foster care before age 4 years due to abuse or neglect had signs of RAD”

Sheaffer, B. L. (2010). Social relatedness disturbances and facial expression recognition deficits in children with reactive attachment disorder.


  • “More than half (53%) of the children in care fulfilled criteria for mental health problems compared with 13% of the control group, and children living in care scored significantly higher for conduct problems, emotional problems (anxiety and depression), hyperactivity, problems with peer relations and Reactive Attachment Disorder.”

Millward, R., Kennedy, E., Towlson, K., & Minnis, H. (2006). Reactive attachment disorder in lookedafter children. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4), 273-279.


  • “Overall, studies tend to find that between a third and a half of children are insecurely attached. In very high-risk populations – where families face multiple problems – up to two-thirds of children are insecurely attached. Children who have been abused are nearly always also insecurely attached. The rate of disorganised attachment, perhaps the highest-risk category, is 25 per cent among low socio-economic status and teenage parent families, compared to 15 per cent in the general population.”

Moullin, S; Waldfogel, J; Washbrook, E. (2014) Baby Bonds: Parenting, attachment and a secure base for children . The Sutton Trust


  • A report in 2014 “…the report uses data collected by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative U.S. study of 14,000 children born in 2001. Their analysis shows that about 60 percent of children develop strong attachments to their parents, which are formed through simple actions, such as holding a baby lovingly and responding to the baby’s needs…The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments, on the other hand, are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. This effect continues throughout the children’s lives, and such children are more likely to leave school without further education, employment or training, the researchers write…”

Four in 10 infants lack strong parental attachments Posted March 27, 2014; 01:30 p.m. by B. Rose Huber, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Princeton.edu.


  • According to the current US census the number of children under 18 years old in the US is 75.5 million. Total US population is 317 million.


So, if the lowest research numbers are used ( 24% of abused children) that makes the number of US children with RAD 186,000. If the highest, most current scores are used from Princeton,  (40 % of all US children) that makes the number just over 30 million with RAD. If we divide that by 50 states that makes just over 600,000 per state!!!!!

 RAD - is it rare? I wish it was!


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio 

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