Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in Adopted Teens

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is commonly diagnosed with children that have been adopted. 

Especially during the puberty (tween and teen) years the behavior of a child with RAD can escalate into oppositional defiance disorder (ODD). These are the times when parents feel like they are going to pull their hair out!

Teens who struggle with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) experience significant difficulty forming and maintaining relationships with anyone. This includes not only biological parents but emotional and healthy attachments to family, significant others, caregivers, and anyone else who may provide care and compassion.

BigstockSadTeenDoes this sound like your teenager?

  • Avoids relationships
  • Lacks emotional expression
  • Withdraws from people (including friends and family)
  • Nonresponsive or discomfort when being consoled
  • Engages in unhealthy or inappropriate relationships
  • Violates social boundaries
  • Posting inappropriate content online
  • Defiance, rage, outbursts of anger without reason

Although RAD is most seen in adopted children and teens, it’s not uncommon to be diagnosed with a child or teen that has experienced extreme family or sexual trauma.

Treatment for teens with RAD

Common treatment for reactive attachment disorder starts with finding professional help locally. A therapist that specializes with RAD the follow types of therapies:

-Attachment therapy. This is a unique therapeutic approach that focuses on thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and interpersonal communication.

-Behavior management therapy (BMT).  With RAD teens, BMT is about educating and training their family and caregivers how to address behavioral issues and concerns.

-Play therapy. This method of therapy helps educate teens on secure attachments and to model for them how such attachments might be formed.

Many parents, after exhausting their local resources, including short-term hospital stays and out-patient services, still struggle with their RAD teenager that is out-of-control or simply causing havoc in their home. There are quality residential treatment centers that specialize with adopted teenagers.

There is a fear that they might be feeding into an abandonment issue, but parents need to understand that they will be giving their child an opportunity for a healthy life.  Living with the rage, anger and stress is not beneficial for anyone. They must learn how to handle their negative impulsiveness and sometimes that means being removed from their environment.

These programs are trained to understand and work with RAD students, as well as work closely with their families. The family is part of the recovery process. The last thing they want do is drive the family apart — on the contrary, a quality therapeutic boarding school is designed to integrate you and your child back together.

Read more about RAD in an essay written by a parent with an adopted teen.

Also read:

Goals of Therapeutic Boarding Schools

5 Benefits of a Therapeutic Boarding School


If you want to learn more about residential treatment and therapeutic boarding schools for teens with RAD, contact us

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