Reactive attachment disorder in maltreated young children in foster care

Bruce, Molly and Young, David and Turnbull, Susan and Rooksby, Maki and Chadwick, Guy and Oates, Catriona and Nelson, Rebecca and Young-Southward, Genevieve and Haig, Caroline and Minnis, Helen (2018) Reactive attachment disorder in maltreated young children in foster care. Attachment & Human Development. ISSN 1469-2988 (

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Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is one of the least researched and most poorly understood psychiatric disorders. Very little is known about the prevalence and stability of RAD symptoms over time. Until recently it has been difficult to investigate RAD due to limited tools for informing a diagnosis. Utilising a newly developed observational tool along with the Disturbances of Attachment Interview. this short-term prospective longitudinal study explored RAD symptoms in maltreated young children in Scotland (n=100, age range =12-62 months) over 12 months. Children were recruited as part of The Best Services Trial (BeST?), in which all infants who came in to the care of the local authority in Glasgow due to child protection concerns were invited to participate. Prevalence of RAD was found to be 5.0% (n=5, 95% CI [0.7-9.3]) when children were first placed in to foster care. Following at least 1 year of improved care conditions, prevalence in the 76 children remaining in the study was 2.1% (n=2, 95% CI [below 0-4.7]). RAD was associated with some mental health and cognitive difficulties. While levels of carer-reported RAD symptoms decreased significantly over time, observed symptoms did not. Findings suggest that RAD resolved in a small majority of cases but further exploration in larger samples would be invaluable.


Bruce, Molly, Young, David ORCID logoORCID:, Turnbull, Susan, Rooksby, Maki, Chadwick, Guy, Oates, Catriona, Nelson, Rebecca, Young-Southward, Genevieve, Haig, Caroline and Minnis, Helen;