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Attachment disorder

Attachment disorder is a broad term used to describe a series of emotional and behavioural problems that can develop in young children who struggle to form expected bonds to primary caregivers, usually their parents.

The initial bond that we have with our parents or primary caregivers from birth is our first experience of a safe and trusting environment, encouraging us to learn and develop under the guidance of people that we instinctively know that we can trust, even at an early age. However, for some children, this fundamental connection with caregivers doesn’t occur. There are a number of reasons why this may happen, although it is typical that abuse, neglect or separation from parents means that a close attachment doesn’t have the necessary circumstances to develop as normal.

When children don't develop an attachment with their caregivers, this can lead to attachment difficulties.

Priory offers a range of evidence-based therapy and treatment for children who are showing signs of attachment disorder. Established therapeutic techniques, such as play therapy and family therapy, are used to treat children with attachment disorder.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Josephine Neale (MBBS, BSc, MRCPsych), Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in June 2022.

What is attachment disorder?
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What are the signs and symptoms of attachment disorder?
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What causes attachment disorder?
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Treatment for children with attachment disorder
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