Cortisol secretion in children with symptoms of reactive attachment disorder

Kocovska, Eva and Wilson, Philip and Young, David and Wallace, Alan Michael and Gorski, Charlotta and Follan, Michael and Smillie, Maureen and Puckering, Christine and Barnes, James and Gillberg, Christopher and Minnis, Helen (2013) Cortisol secretion in children with symptoms of reactive attachment disorder. Psychiatry Research, 209 (1). pp. 74-77. ISSN 0165-1781 (

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Maltreated children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) have severe problems with social relationships and affect regulation. An association between early maltreatment and changes in the daily rhythm of cortisol secretion has already been reported for maltreated toddlers. We sought to find out whether such changes were apparent in school-age children with symptoms of RAD, who had experienced early maltreatment but were currently adopted in well functioning families. We recruited 66 children: 34 5-12 year old adopted children with an early history of maltreatment and with social difficulties such as indiscriminate friendliness; and 32 age- and sex-matched comparison children with no history of maltreatment or social difficulties. Daily rhythms of cortisol production were determined from saliva samples collected over 2 days. The adopted group had significantly lower absolute levels of cortisol compared to the control group, but a typical profile of cortisol secretion. There was no association between cortisol secretion and symptom scores for psychopathology.


Kocovska, Eva, Wilson, Philip, Young, David ORCID logoORCID:, Wallace, Alan Michael, Gorski, Charlotta, Follan, Michael, Smillie, Maureen, Puckering, Christine, Barnes, James, Gillberg, Christopher and Minnis, Helen;