Tag Archives: Reactive Attachment Disorder

Attachment Disorders in the Adoptive Population

Adoption and Attachment DisorderAs I was doing some research on Attachment Disorders, I came across an interview with Dr. Jane Aronson, “Orphan Doctor” to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s family. Although the interview is now four years old, the conversation struck me as inspirational on one hand, as she is a strong supporter of adoption, and somewhat confusing on the other.

The inspirational part of this interview shines through when she talks about the myth of there being something of a magical age where younger children transition from perfectly adoptable to going forever unadopted. Indeed, she makes a solid case for adopting older children, especially if the couple who is adopting the child is older themselves.

Dr. Aronson also provides some commentary that attempts to debunk the argument that if you don’t adopt children before a certain age then they will suffer from Attachment Disorder. She says:

Attachment disorder is likely more based on brain chemistry and brain damage. And a lot of these magazines that you read aren’t tapping into research done by people who are at lofty universities who really study attachment from the basis of the physiology and anatomy of the brain. And attachment likely has more to do with brain damage that occurs during the pregnancy, due to malnourishment, exposure to toxins in the environment, infections during the pregnancy, exposure to alcohol and drugs and smoking.

Here’s the confusing part. Unfortunately, Dr. Aronson doesn’t provide the studies so we might verify her claim. It is well established in the therapeutic community, however, that some attachment disorders are indeed caused by inadequate nurturing environments and not necessarily by issues during pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic, a top research facility in the country reports the causes of Reactive Attachment Disorder to be:

A child whose needs are ignored or met with emotionally or physically abusive responses from caregivers comes to expect rejection or hostility. The child then becomes distrustful and learns to avoid social contact. Emotional interactions between babies and caregivers may affect development in the brain, leading to attachment problems and affecting personality and relationships throughout life.

Dr Aronson’s confusing claim does not, in any way, reduce her argument for the need for and the advantages of adopting older children. In fact, though we would love to see all children adopted, parents adopting older children could be better informed of a child’s attachment disorder because attachment disorders manifest themselves before 5 years of age, and older children are more easily diagnosed.

As for the adoption aspect of the article, Dr Aronson somewhat stigmatizes American mothers who give their children up for adoption as being drug addled, while glossing over virtually all of the potential pitfalls of international adoption. In my experience working with at risk or out of control adopted youth has shown that serious trouble can be found in both international and domestic adoption.

If you are having difficulty with an adopted child, if he or she is having trouble in school, trouble getting along with their peers or authority, lack of social skills, lying, hyperactivity, ADHD, addictions, drug abuse, running away, mood disorders, or stealing please contact Prepare To Bloom, LLC at 650-888-4575 or visit our web page at

Further Reading:
Mayo Clinic Definition : Reactive Attachment Disorder
HelpGuide Article : Attachment Disorder


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