An exploratory study of the association between reactive attachment disorder and attachment narratives in early school-age children


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Helen Minnis, Section of Psychological Medicine, University of Glasgow, Caledonia House, Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow G38SJ, Scotland; Email:


Objective:  To explore attachment narratives in children diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD).

Method:  We compared attachment narratives, as measured by the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task, in a group of 33 children with a diagnosis of RAD and 37 comparison children.

Results:  The relative risk (RR) for children with RAD having an insecure attachment pattern was 2.4 (1.4–4.2) but 30% were rated as securely attached. Within the RAD group, children with a clear history of maltreatment were more likely to be Insecure-Disorganised than children without a clear history of maltreatment.

Conclusions:  Reactive attachment disorder is not the same as attachment insecurity, and questions remain about how attachment research informs clinical research on attachment disorders.