71 thoughts on “Why Parents of R.A.D. Children Always Look Like A**holes

  • May 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    What a perfectly horrid article, starting with the title!

    The author is not talking about RAD, but an unrecognized diagnosis (Attachment Disorder, or AD) invented by a fringe psychotherapy called “Attachment Therapy” (aka Holding Therapy, Rage Reduction, Rebirthing, Compression Therapy, Nancy Thomas parenting, etc.).

    This brutal therapy, its highly authoritarian parenting methods, and its AD diagnosis have all been denounced by the mental health professions as potentially harmful.

    Giving credence to this quackery does a great disservice to the public and endangers children. You need to do a retraction ASAP.

    For more info: http:// http://www.childrenintherapy.org

    • May 14, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Linda,

      When someone doesn’t view Reactive Attachment Disorder as a valid medical diagnosis, it’s usually safe for me to assume that this person has never lived with or raised a child who had it. That’s not to say you’re uneducated or anything of the sorts, just to say that you’ve probably never been exposed to the disorder in a personal way.

      My husband and I were house parents of a group home for a year and a half (with our two small children), where we had up to eight teenage boys living with us at any point in time. They were all there for behavioral concerns, but a few of them who came through had RAD. One of them came in at fifteen, stayed about six months, and left by sixteen. He was removed from placement with us because he was found digging our graves in the backyard, after threatening to set our house on fire multiple times. And remember that he was placed with us AFTER being removed from his permanent family because he wasn’t safe with them. He’d been adopted at a year old and had suffered immense trauma at the hands of his bio parents.

      Now, my goddaughter has RAD, who was also adopted around her first birthday. If you’ve ever lived through this disorder alongside a child, it’s traumatic and heartbreaking and absolutely VALID.

      Reactive Attachment Disorder is recognized by the AACAP (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry), the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and therapists all over the world. Not only has it been proven through vast studies since the 1980s, but it’s also been shown through physical manifestations in brain scans. The trauma they’ve gone through has imprinted a literal map throughout their brain, affecting everything from their nervous system to their brain size to the amount of gray matter in there.

      Although “quackery” is an emotional word meant to stir up controversy around this post, it isn’t an accurate depiction of what we’re talking about. I’m certain that none of the parents going through this disorder with their children right now would find it amusing that their lives have been labeled with such a derogatory word.

      And let me be clear: I would NEVER suggets using outdated and unproven forms of therapy for RAD, such as holding therapy, rebirthing, or anything similar. Those have been proven to be harmful, and no one on this site would ever condone something so hurtful to a child. In fact, I didn’t mention types of treatment in this post at all.

      This was simply meant to be a statement of recognition to parents who are struggling, as well as an eye opener for those who might be their friends or family members. The “horrid title” was meant to establish a common ground amongst parents who are at their wits’ end with this disorder. They’re not likely to open a post entitled “You’re Mean to Your Kids and Their Diagnosis Isn’t Real,” but they are likely to open a post that acknowledges how often they’re judged as parents.

      I appreciate the time you took to read this article, as well as the opportunity you gave me to respond to it.

      Have a great week,


      • May 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm

        “Waahh my kid hates me! Here’s an article proving their damage isn’t from my doings! Feel bad for what I have to go through!”

      • May 20, 2018 at 5:51 pm

        Captain Obvious,

        I appreciate your willingness to keep all of us honest! We really were just seeking sympathy for our made-up problems. We get so jealous of the attention our children get.

        YOU are the real hero here.

        Forever indebted,


      • August 2, 2019 at 5:30 pm

        Before I met a child with R.A.D., I made the kind of mistakes in my thinking you have made. I assumed a lot of love, some firm but loving boundaries, etc., etc., etc., would work miracles on the children who came to my daughter and her husband, via an emergency foster care placement.

        However, after 7 years with the youngest, watching them, and the patterns of behavior, I began to realize that what I had read about R.A.D. is true. The R.A.D. child has a brain chemistry where nurturing and love trigger a fight-or-flight response. The person they depended on the most when they were helpless, hurt them the most, and their brain rewired to “beware, this is a person who will hurt you,” that is triggered by acts of nurturing and affection.

        The more love they feel for a person, the more terrified they are of what they are feeling. The more determined they are to hurt before they are hurt by that person. At times my grandson is able to talk about it in 7 year old terms. He knows his mother (adopted) loves him, and he loves her back, but sometimes he does the most outrageous and dangerous things and when you ask him why, when he is calm again, he will say he just feels mad sometimes and doesn’t know why. He will admit that he will try to destroy things that belong to his mother, if he is mad at a teacher, because Mama (and he’ll list something his birth mother did, things he shouldn’t even be ABLE to remember, but that are IN his adoption records). If you say, “Do you really think your mother did that to you?” Meaning his adopted mother, he says, “No. It was the other lady. The bad lady.” I said, “Do you remember that lady?” He’ll say, “She hated me.” Now, NO ONE in our family has talked to this child about the birth mother or what she did to him. He just has vague memories that stuck with him because they were SO traumatic.

        And to compare the abuse these kids went through to an alcoholic parent is far from an equal comparison in 99% of the cases. We aren’t talking about “Mama got drunk and hit me, but sometimes she is nice.” We are talking about Stephen King novel levels of neglect and abuse. Of babies locked alone in dark closets, strapped into car seats alone for 24 to 48 hours, unfed, unchanged, unheld, because the person who CLAIMED to love them, when people were watching, was psychotic.

        A lot of love, medication, patience, and tears has helped my grandson some, but every single day requires 100% watchfulness. The more he feels safe, the more likely he is to do something absolutely dangerous to himself or others, because “feeling safe” means “danger” to his brain. He literally cried once and admitted he knows people his age don’t like him because he does things at school that they make fun of, but that he “has to do those thing” .. “because”. He wants to know how to stop, but wanting to know how to tell your brain, “no,” and being ABLE to tell your brain “no,” are very different thing.

      • September 4, 2019 at 3:24 am

        I have two adopted daughters and my heart goes out to you all. I truly believe this is a true thing that some children, victims, have endured. Thoughts and prayers for you all.

      • June 26, 2019 at 1:34 am


        As a mother who raised a child with RAD with love, unending support emotionally, financially and protectively, I can assure you RAD exists. After 16 years of raising my daughter who has been in and out of legal mandated residential facilities for self harm, theft, evading police etc. etc. etc. Now I at 54 have suffered a acute depression because I finally realize she doesn’t care about anyone but herself. So unless you are the parent raising someone with RAD. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF. It’s hurtful to those of us suffering

      • September 7, 2019 at 7:58 pm

        I too as you friend have finally realized my adopted son could care less about me and if he had the chance would hurt his family( us) nothing but love for years and many tearful days and nights over it. It hurts and will I turn my back totally no but I’ll be darn at the age of 58 will I let him treat me like crap and ruin my life.

      • August 2, 2019 at 11:02 am

        As an RN and parent to several RAD children, this article was well done, concise and to the point. It is just the tip of the iceberg. There are varying degrees of RAD and the ignorant comments are sad and pathetic. Keyboard warriors who have never raised traumatised, RAD children should study and learn rather than condemn and villify based on an article they read.

    • May 16, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Hate the title as well. Thanks for calling it out!

    • December 21, 2018 at 12:28 am

      I would like to add to your article that some children who are exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero and are adopted by loving nurturing care givers still develop these RAD behaviors. We have 4 adopted children we got at birth. 1 of them is RADish and the other 3 are securely attached with no behavioral issues at all. I believe that the substance exposure causes such disregulation of the infants brain development that they, not the loving, nurturing parent, cannot Bond and attach. These kids also have a poor sense of self differentiation and appt of trouble identifying feelings and motives in themselves and others. Thank you for the great read.

    • May 15, 2019 at 12:42 am

      My older sister has Reactive detachment disorder. It’s like a light switch turning o and off with her emotions. You may have good days but the bad days could be scary. My sister has mental problems too because of it. On my birthday she wanted people to know that no one loves her so she called the cops and ambulance and told them to take her away she went to a mental facility. Don’t judge people with RAD they can’t help it. My sister was abused so therefore she is detached from family because that is what taught her that she can’t trust no one. This article is very true I lived everyday very scared I was locked in a bathroom for hours because of my sister she is 17 now and it is only getting worse but now she does EMDR which really has helped her through a lot of it.

    • August 2, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      I am sorry but where in this article did any of the themes you mention present itself?? I am a tad confused? If it’s not real please present the scientific evidence that supports it!!
      Spoken from a RAD parent and Attachment Therapist

    • August 2, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      You are mistaken in many of your statements. R.A.D. is not a “modern trend” diagnosis, it has been recognized in the DSM for over 20 years. (3, 4, and 5). The Mayo Clinic recognizes it, and there are medical studies that focus on the brain biology of children who suffered the sever trauma and neglect that leads to R.A.D., and actually shows the different reaction of the brain of a R.A.D. child to stimuli from the brain of non-R.A.D. victims.

      I think it is interesting that an R.N. is claiming the Mayo Clinic is wrong.

  • May 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    People who are stupid and mean spirited enough to get sucked in by the “RAD” cult have no business being foster or adoptive parents. I can’t believe psych central allows itself to be associated with this trash pseudopsychology. There is a reason the “therapies ” associated with this phony diagnosis are deemed abusive.

    • May 14, 2018 at 10:35 pm

      Hi Shannon,

      Psych Central does not agree or disagree with its writers’ posts or opinions. That being said, Reactive Attachment Disorder is a medical/psychological diagnosis recognized by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Providers in the psychology world diagnose it and treat it every day.

      I agree that many therapies “associated” with the disorder are abusive and barbaric, however, modern-day providers do not use those. They were theoretical ideas spurred by discoveries in the 1980s, which are not deemed appropriate treatment by any medical or psychological organization.

      I would love to write a post about the treatment options that are available to sufferers of RAD, but it would never include harmful therapies that really aren’t used by true professionals.

      Foster and adoptive parents who work with children who have RAD have taken on an incredibly heavy burden, whether they approach it correctly or incorrectly. This post was not to speak of the difference between types of treatment or varied thoughts on parenting, but rather to acknowledge the pain these families go through and how they’re mostly all viewed negatively in the public’s eyes. These parents aren’t making up diagnoses for their foster/adoptive children to satisfy their own beliefs (unless they’re severely mentally ill themselves). They’re following a treatment plan prescribed by a psychology professional, as well as their child’s pediatrician, and doing exactly as they have been told.

      To belittle their experience would be to say they are not taking on a huge responsibility for our society, which would be altogether false.

      Thank you for your time and thoughts on this post. May my response find you well and open-minded!



      • May 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm

        Whitney, et al: You fail to understand that while Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a recognized mental health diagnosis in the DSM-V, you and most of the others commenting here are not referring to the RAD that is defined in the DSM-V, but to something completely different.

        According to the DSM-V, a child RAD is just very withdrawn and doesn’t not seek out comfort. There are no aggressive features with RAD. It is a rare condition. There are no validated therapies for treating RAD. (Ethical therapists usually recommend patient, consistent, and responsive parenting.)

        What people here are talking about is “Attachment Disorder” (AD), an unrecognized diagnosis invented by Attachment Therapists. RAD and AD are very different in every way. But AD is commonly conflated with RAD, probably for insurance reasons and to appear legitimate. Note that with the popular diagnostic tool called the RADQ – the “R” is for Randolph, not Reactive. It is for diagnosing AD, not RAD. So says Elizabeth Randolph.

        “RAD vs AD”

        Typical of a quack diagnosis, AD has dozens of signs so that any child can qualify for an AD (phony “RAD”) diagnosis from an Attachment Therapist. This is called being a “catch-all” diagnosis.

        I am not denying that people have children that are aggressive or have other serious behavior problems. What I am saying is that no child has the quack AD diagnosis. The first step in helping children is to get a good assessment and a valid diagnosis.

        There is no evidence of benefit from Attachment Therapy, its misconceptions about child development, and its highly authoritarian parenting methods (aka Nancy Thomas parenting). There is, alas, lots of evidence of harm.

    • May 22, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Clearly Shannon you have no personal experience with RAD. Parents to RAD kids are not part of a cult we are victims of our child’s disorder. Please go out and adopt a kid with RAD, live with that kid for two years and then you will be qualified to have an intelligent conversation on the subject of RAD. Right now you are not capable of adding any value to the conversation as you have no experience with RAD.

      • February 18, 2019 at 6:23 pm

        Oh my, what words can I possibly use….i have been attacked by 10 yr old grandchild with RAD diagnosis …inevery way…I the car, in my bed, our home is. Shambles……walls, appliances, cars windows……….totally with out remorse…….won’t obey, won’t do anything with out personal gain imediately truant, gifted in five genres, plays five instruments……. when not busti g them up!!!…….hoards food, tears doors off , mocks, steals , ……..
        And I am an asshole for adopting him ….taking him from a drug addicted mom and providing a Christian private school, I’m 73 years old ……ive had him on my back kicking my feet out from under me…..and yet I have never given up on Helping him become heaven bound and world savy……as best I can…..everyday , everyway, with all my strength and more……some of the responses in this site are highly ignorant of a lot of things…..including compassion and. Personnal experience 24/7. Shame on you. Wee you have had your door to bedroom pulled from door jam and thrown on you at four a.m……..call it by what initials you please, at least you can boast the differences in the name and your high book knowledge of the topic discussed……..and who did that help,exactly.

      • September 12, 2019 at 8:50 am

        bless you

  • May 15, 2018 at 6:29 am

    I’m very worried that my now toddler adopted daughter might have an RAD dx. Is there anything you can help me look out for right now (despite being a two year old and having severe delays due to her abuse and neglect in utero and for the first year) that might help me identify this? Also, ARE there any treatments that have proven even slightly effective in changing or rewiring the brains of these children?
    Yes, I can google this, but it gets a bit discouraging.
    Thank you for this article. It’s so, so hard to listen to people constantly judge my parenting because I’m “so warm and loving with my other two,” but with the baby I seem so “cold.” What you wrote is spot on!!

    • May 15, 2018 at 9:45 am


      Thank you for your honesty and for the work you’re doing with your daughter! You’re fighting a lot of uphill battles right now, but it’s the most valuable work in the world.

      In very young children, RAD can be hard to distinguish from regular toddler craziness/tantrums, but what I’ve learned is that they’re always just a bit MORE (if that makes sense). With a typical toddler, consistent parenting will improve the behavior, even if it is in small amounts. With a RAD toddler, either makes you feel like you must be doing something wrong (because it causes more explosions in the child), or it teaches the child to manipulate more effectively (for those who have higher processing speeds and are, therefore, more skilled in reading people).

      In toddlers, this often looks like:

      – Seemingly two different personalities, one for at home and one for public, that are DRASTICALLY different
      – Sneaking or hoarding of food
      – Not seeking comfort from mom or dad when they’re upset
      – Becoming upset over the loss of items, privileges, or control, but not becoming upset over things that might scare a typical toddler (storms, strangers, clowns, falling down, etc)
      – Seeming to have no emotional concern for others (doesn’t show worried facial expressions when another person gets hurt or is crying)
      – Using bladder control as a means of controlling their environment (choosing to wet their pants to avoid an activity, or choosing to wet their pants to get out of wearing an outfit they don’t like) *NOTE: this is only applicable for children who are truly potty trained and mature enough to not have frequent accidents
      – Physically hiding things that might earn them a consequence (hiding wet clothes, hiding toys they were supposed to clean, hiding empty wrappers of food they’ve stolen, hiding broken objects)
      – Showing extreme preference to adults who provide them with access to tangibles (they might love your best friend Brenda because every she’s around, they get candy or toys or extra snacks)
      – Physical violence when upset, more frequent than most toddlers or more extreme (hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, clawing, tripping, etc)
      – Lack of emotional control, even moreso than a toddler who is typical

      Those are the ones that come to mind right away! Hopefully that helps.

      I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional to see what resources are available to you. If your daughter is foster/adopt, her insurance will cover most of the services. You can even have a full evaluation done of her brain and psyche, which will give you even more answers.

      Let me know how things turn out.



      • September 23, 2018 at 5:10 pm

        You can had poop to the list. Some days I think peeing would be welcomed. And while I haven’t read all the comments here I’ve read enough to simply say NO ONE has the right to comment negatively to this article until THEY have LIVED with a child with RAD (or whatever you think you want to name this child/life/hell) for at least a year. Trust me – you’ll be retracting YOUR non-supportive comments and begging for your old life back. God Bless you, W R Cumming!!!!!!!

    • May 18, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      My wife and I feel your pain! We are dealing with a similar child. He LOVES to meet other people and comes across as just another fun loving little boy. That’s what we thought too when we first got involved with him. We later learned the truth though. He uses his charm to get what he wants. When that no longer happens, his behavior changes and he becomes combative and argumentative over everything. The short term answer is to just give in to everything and let him have what he wants. We’re in this for the long haul though, and have a great network of support around us. His school has been OUTSTANDING in their support. Well above what could be expected.

      I hope knowing that there are others out there, and that you aren’t being a meanie will help you stay the course. I also hope you can find a good support network like we have.

  • May 15, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Thank you for the post, it validates the feelings of so many of us parents who have had the experience with RAD. It can be a very lonely road and criticism from so many who have no clue can be traumatic all by itself. Some responders should remember that we truly want our children healed but until you walk this path you really have no idea how difficult this diagnosis can be.

    • May 15, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you for the words of encouragement, Julann. And thank you for the work you’ve done for whichever child you came into contact with. Your work was/is valuable!

  • May 15, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Having parented over 40 children, birthed two and adopted 10, I can tell you RAD is VERY real and without proper training can devastate a home. I wish I had known more about it 30 years ago. I’m glad I do now. We are still recovering from the most recent fallout of adopting a teen with DX severe RAD. Her behaviors were not disclosed prior to adoption. Thankfully she is now in a place where she is doing well and we are safe.


    • May 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm


      It’s encouraging to see the community of RAD parents coming together to support one another. It’s the most beautiful and effective way to eradicate loneliness and feelings of failure amongst families who are going through it.

      Thank you for everything you’ve done for children.


  • May 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    This article should be required reading of all friends & family of an adopting couple.

    It would have helped us greatly (2 boys, Russian adoptions) to not have to deal with RAD for the boys sake AND having to deal with family & friends that didn’t have the knowledge of the situation, and in some cases, didn’t want to believe anything we were telling them.

    • May 15, 2018 at 2:39 pm


      I completely agree. I wish I could have reached out to you during the time you were experiencing such discouragement! Your work with those boys was and is important, and I’m thankful you’ve found peace now in how hard it was then.

      You’re incredible!


      • May 21, 2018 at 9:12 pm

        I think that the points made in this article are good, but I might suggest that it is limited in the horror that the child finds in himself/herself by having this disorder. Obviously, children with RAD didn’t arrive in this predicament. However, society (not just the US, but many other countries as well) has helped to make this happen for these neglected individuals by the lack of support, care and nurturing for birth parents. Again, adoptive, foster parents are being asked to do an incredibly difficult job with limited resources. However, we do have to have hope that these children with RAD will find some way to be appropriately socialized so that they may have some adult life. Obviously extreme measures do not work. However, with all behavior, consistency is the best tool and those caring for these children have to be super consistent and hope for the best. Sometimes it does happen.

  • May 15, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    If you are parenting a child with RAD, I want tho invite you to visit our support group on Facebook. RADical mamas…when love isn’t enough
    Total support and NO unsolicited advice.

    • May 15, 2018 at 2:40 pm


      What an incredible resource for families who are dealing with RAD. Thank you for sharing it!



    • May 21, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Hi I just saw your post on Facebook my story will blow you away I don’t know why I’m still standing.we adopted 3 boys from social services 13 yrs ago through the foster system all 3 of them had severe neglect 1 was from a different family that was physically abusive also sexual abuse, the other 2 were biological brothers they we’re born with drugs in there system mom was on crack and God knows what else. Anyway we have been on a journey of hell we had social services called on us because the.oldest boys put bruises on them selves and lied at school , whole teams of teachers at my son’s school had to have walkie talkies because you never new when he was going to throw a desk at you or break something when he was 7 he tried to kill him self because he didn’t want to do his homework. My oldest of the 2 15yr olds is currently in his 2nd residential home he has asalted me 2 times almost broke my ribs and kicked me in the chest he’s told me he’d rather see me dead , he’s pulled knives on me and his brothers and completely destroyed our home.over and over again I’ve lost count all my kids curse me out on a daily basis ,they don’t follow anything I tell them and we’ve tried every in home out patient art therapist medication camps nothing has worked. My son tells the therapist what they want to hear. Oh yes I forget to tell you my son also melested a 3 and 4 year old boys in our neighborhood plus other sexually stuff that’s still open
      Well there’s a lot more I could tell you but I think you get the picture. I pray a lot and my older sister helps when she can. I just recently found this book on Amazon by Linda J Rice “parenting the difficult child” a biblical perspective on RAD. It’s Great!!!

  • May 15, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    I can understand why some don’t agree with this title and feel this article lacks in truth’s and help with the actual Disorder. BUT to Me, having a few kids with RADS, I understand this article very much. It hits home to me. I don’t feel like it’s suggesting I’m an A**Hole, but suggesting that I feel like I am one because of the struggles I have with my kids with RADS. And I’m pretty sure others judge me and look at me as an A**hole because they don’t understand the whole situation too. For example, I don’t give my children much sugar at all. In fact it’s very rare I give it to them. And parents constantly judge me for being a mean mother for this. But then again it truly helps with some of their behaviors (not all!). I do have to constantly apologize to families for my children’s behaviors and then I get marked as a bad parent because for some reason they think I’ve turned my child into an inappropriate misbehaved child. The struggle is real! And it was nice reading this to help me feel like someone else understands!! So thank you!

    • May 15, 2018 at 6:04 pm


      I appreciate your willingness to be transparent in your post! I did hesitate to use such a course title, but, ultimately, I think it got the correct point across. I also think it caught the attention of all the naysayers who were looking for a reason to think something judgmental about a RAD parent they know. I enjoyed being able to draw them into an article that actually commended those “terrible” parents.

      I am thankful you found comfort in this article!!



  • May 16, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    Hi All!
    I’ve never commented like this before so I’m not sure I’m doing this right.

    We adopted our grandson who we started fostering at 8 months old. He has been diagnosed with many “blessings”, but has not been officially diagnosed with R.A D.

    While reading what parents of children with R.A.D. go through, tears ran down my face. I go through these things every day. When I feel the need to tell him “No”, I get physically attacked. He lives every mom in the neighborhood EXCEPT me – he HATES me!

    From 8 months on, I held him cuddled him, loved him, worried about him. Is it possible for him to have developed R.A.D prior to 8 months? His bio-mother (my daughter) was physically abused, along with doing meth and drinking alcohol while pregnant.

    At least now it’s just another one of his “blessings ” and not just me.

    Thank you for the article.

    • May 16, 2018 at 11:20 pm


      Yes, it is absolutely possible to develop RAD prior to 8 months of age. The brain develops many attachment capabilities, social skills, and emotions during even the first THREE months of life. In fact,my goddaughter developed it because of trauma done to her during her first three months.

      Have you guys seen a therapist, yet, or spoken with your pediatrician about it?

      I hope you find the answers you’re looking for! Don’t give up, and be sure to reach out to other parents who’ve gone through this before you.

      You’re doing incredible (hard) things right now that will change your kiddo’s life for the better.



      • May 18, 2018 at 10:56 pm

        Thank you so much for the reply.

        After reading your article, I got the first appointment I could to speak with his pediatrician.

        We have seen numerous therapists, the consensus is that “normal” therapy won’t help us/him. We need ABA(?) therapy. We are in the process of qualifying for that.

        Is there a way to identify and reach out to other parents?

      • May 19, 2018 at 9:20 pm

        Yes! As another commenter mentioned on here, there are a few support groups on Facebook that are judgement-free zones. I would start there first! 🙂

        Good luck in your process to finding healing.


  • May 16, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Great article! Those who would try and label RAD as quackery and denounce attachment therapies must have never lived with or been an adopted parent of a child who struggles to attach. We have been on this journey with our daughter for over 10 years(she is now 21) We would be raving lunatics if it hadn’t been for attachment therapists, parent support groups and the myriad of other helpful tools and caring friends as well as respite providers. Thank you for shedding more light on this for those who don’t understand and for those who want to understand and help.

    • May 16, 2018 at 11:22 pm


      As much as my article might have encouraged you, your response to it encouraged me! Thank you for taking the time to comment and add another voice to our plea for acknowledgment.

      You’re awesome.


  • May 18, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you for this article. We are a foster family dealing with a RAD diagnosis. We also are subject to ridicule and derision by another party to the case for our treatment of the child. We have researched it extensively however, and have a great group of therapists and other supports working with us for the childs best interest. While outsiders may not understand our actions at times, we know from the research and therapist directions that we’re doing the right thing. It’s going to be a long, rough road and articles like yours help remind us we’re on the right path, regardless of what outsiders might feel.

    • May 19, 2018 at 9:22 pm


      You’re doing hard work that will reap incredible benefits on the other side!

      Thank you for your massive efforts,


  • May 18, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! After every sentence, I felt like screaming out, “Yes!” I often feel like an absolutely horrible, ornery, negative person. This article was so validating, not only for me but for my daughter. (We adopted her at age four; she’s eight now.) Like you said in the article, I have read so many books on her behavior, how it developed, and what we’re supposed to do about it. But it was so refreshing to read something about how I feel. These last four years have tested our marriage, our extended family relationships, and our children. It can feel very hopeless. Knowing that my feelings are normal, that our experience are “normal” (at least with RAD kids), makes it feel a little less hopeless. So thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    • May 19, 2018 at 9:21 pm


      Your response brought me tears. I feel so fortunate to be a position that brings hope to parents who are struggling and isolated. Thank you for the hard work you do to offer better lives to kids who are often forgotten.

      Blessings many times over,


    • February 11, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      I have never replied to a blog and don’t use social media but when I was sent this, I had to rely to similarly say thank you for describing our everyday life since we adopted our daughter. It also had me crying just to have some validation. To those that don’t experience, or have been a most important resource, I can tell you this is indeed spot on and that it affects every member of the household, including siblings. I also think it is validating for a child with RAD to know they aren’t alone in their behavior. It is only together and with understanding the situation that I believe we can help our children thrive–they did not chose this, it was a result of a living arrangement for which they had no control. This does not mean it is easy, it is not–far from it but I have to have hope. Thank you for putting our life into words and picking me up to carry on!

  • May 19, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Living the life of RAD in our household with our adopted daughter. And it really is hell on earth! I appreciate this post.

    • May 19, 2018 at 10:10 pm


      You’re doing hard work and anyone who’s been there applauds you.

      Good luck on your journey!


  • May 20, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    As an elementary school principal, I can absolutely verify that RAD is real, and based on personal experience over 10 years, the numbers of children with this disorder are increasing. I believe this may be due to the opiod crisis with more and more kids either being fostered or raised by grandparents/family, AND the emotional detachment of parents who are addicted to technology and do not provide emotional nurturing of their infants. No proof there, just my own personal experience. These kids are a nightmare for teachers and school staff. They are often a danger to other children, manipulative, and charming as hell. Often, the complex emotional (and frequently physical) trauma of their infancy/early childhood plays out in a variety of ways, but the attachment issues create bizarre survival behaviors that defy logic at times. In my small rural school in a rural state, we do not have the resources or expertise available to help us to help them or their families. In fact, typically, schools get blamed for causing the problems and often families are in denial or overwhelmed and looking for answers or someone to blame. The complex social challenges of the school environment and the variety of adults kids have to interact with through a school day create tremendous stress for these children. The therapies to help them are tough love for sure. The folks who are committed to raising these kids are heroes in my book. Thank you for bringing attention to the topic.

    • May 20, 2018 at 8:06 pm


      Thank you for acknowledgement from the professional aspect of child rearing. I, too, see an increased number of children with attachment disorders entering school, which makes me wonder how we will change our school systems to match their needs. Considering the fact that many of them can’t be around other kids without supervision, it brings up some interesting questions about how we’ll continue to fund schools who need an increased number of staff members, or how we’ll fund behavior schools that need to start popping up in densely populated areas.

      I wish I could pick your brain (and many other school faculty’s brains) about it!

      Thanks so much for the reply,


    • May 21, 2018 at 9:13 am

      Sarah, I would personally like to thank you for your concern for the kids and your desire to learn more about how to help them.

      We are working with a principal and teacher at our elementary school who have gone far and above the call of duty in trying to work with us and our kiddo. I am not sure we would still be working with him if not for the support of the school.

  • May 21, 2018 at 5:01 am

    There’s no RAD, there’s emotionally dull parents and overly conscious children.
    Parent victimization is a horrible and unusual punishment for a child.

  • May 21, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I just can’t believe the number of trolls on an article such as this. I’m truly sorry for those of you so cold, bitter and unkind that you would care to make a nearly impossible and devastating situation that much worse by your ignorant comments.
    Shame on you.

    Whitney, thank you eternally for your empathy and hard work to support us.

  • May 21, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Is Donald Trump RAD?
    What do you think?
    I am serious.

  • May 23, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Now I know why Chucky turned out the way he did.

  • May 23, 2018 at 4:44 am

    This describes one of my children except for ‘not being nurtured in the first few months of their life.’ I think I gave her so much attention then! She cried all the time, and a nurse in the hospital, when we were leaving on her second day said “I’m glad that one is going it does nothing but cry.” Indeed after she was born, the first time I used the bathroom, just for a wee, a nurse was banging on the door saying my baby was crying. She was breast fed, I held her a lot – because of the crying, she was always being cuddled and usually slept on my lap because she was so fractious. She was still breast fed at 2 years old because she would not sleep and her father moved out of our bed because of her. I used to feel as if I could never do enough for her. She thrived, growing well. Yet her behaviour became that which you describe. Despite that I believe she was nurtured more than her siblings in her first 3 months.

  • May 23, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    As someone has already noted, what you describe does not correspond to the definition of RAD as recognized by DSM. It does, however, strongly resemble APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder), which of course cannot be officially diagnosed before the age of 18, but is known to manifest long before that in many people who will eventually receive the diagnosis. The behaviours described in many comments, on the other hand, are almost certain cases of Conduct Disorder.

    RAD is not associated with manipulative behaviour, property destruction, or physical violence.

  • June 20, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I hesitated to reply to this article and the many negative responses. I hope in doing so it will give encouragement to those living with and suffering with a child who has been affected with RAD.
    I’m no doctor. I have no degree in the workings of the human mind. I’m an artist…I try to make things ascetically pleasing. My thoughts come from 19 years of living with a child who could not form healthy attachments.
    My daughter is beautiful. She is funny and charming and smart. She has a heart the size of Texas…and it scares her half to death. She doesn’t want anyone to know how big her heart is or how very much it hurts her. So she hides from anything that might indicate she cares. If you show her love or compassion she will hurt you. Physically, mentally, emotionally. She will find a way to HURT you. She has too. Her brain gives her no choice. Her brain tells her that showing her love or care or compassion is dangerous. To her, a hug is a form of control and any amount of control is meant to harm her. She MUST maintain control at all costs or die. That is what her brain tells her. She doesn’t want to be different. She doesn’t want to think/feel this way. The same way a child born without legs wishes he could walk, my daughter wishes she could love. Instead she collects people who can provide her with the things she needs to survive. Food, clothing, shelter, cash. Her needs and her survival are 90% of her thought process. See, she was kidnapped as an infant. Her birthmother thought she could sell my daughter to the highest bidder. The highest bidder never showed and my baby spent the first 4 months of her life in a baby swing within an abandoned warehouse. Her caregivers were drug addicts and prostitutes. When she cried no one came. When she soiled her diaper no one changed her. If someone woke up from their drug induced stupor long enough to hear her cries they would prop a bottle under her chin. At least that is what the doctors believe happened. Her underarms were covered in mold and rashes when she was returned to me. I was told to just love her and hold her and talk to her All a baby needs is love! They can recover from any amount of abuse if you just love them enough! So that’s what I did…it became my life’s mission to love this baby until she started to act ‘normal’ . My love was met with anger, hatred and abuse. For 19 years I have feared for the safety of myself, my husband and my daughter. I have spent a thousand hours in the ER with my child because she was out of control. I have had hundreds of case workers, wrap service workers, physiatrists and government workers in my home evaluating me and offering useless advice. My entire world is and has been devoted to finding help for my one and only child. I have lost the ability to care what other people think of me. Read that again….it’s not that I don’t care or that I choice not to care it’s that my life with a RAD child has caused me to lose the ABILITY to care what anyone else thinks. I live this. Every minute of every day. I watch my words very carefully. I make sure I never show affection to anyone else in front of my daughter. I ‘announce’ where I’m going and what I’m doing when ever I leave a room she is in. I expect nothing from her. I cringe when she lies and manipulates. This is not the way we raised her. It is the way her brain works. I don’t condone what she does however I do understand WHY. So the next time an outsider comments on what RAD is or what it’s like to raise a child with RAD…turn off your ability to care and know that you are not alone and your struggle is very real and it’s OK to mourn what should have been.

    • January 15, 2019 at 12:26 am

      Thank you Carol, and thank you Whitney. I looked to the comments for support and encouragement; the “Me toos” of this adoptive world. I was horrified and felt defeated the instant that I saw the judgemental comments, what I like to call “ignorance on fire”. No doubt these intellects mean well, by setting the record straight on what their textbooks have taught them, but how much have our textbooks changed over the years when it comes to the physical, emotional and mental care of children. I don’t even know, is it lay your baby on his/her back or stomach this decade? And that’s just in regard ti the ones that have been loved and nurtured in utero and their first years. Until you have raised a child with RAD, you have no authority to speak on the subject. Especially no moral or ethical right to judge. We could relate to EVERY single bullet point made for what our days are and have been for the past 13 years that we have raised our nephew after my little brother was killed in Iraq. Live the stories before you pipe in. I so appreciate every parent here who has hurt for this children, advocated for them, did not sent them back, didn’t give up. Because the rest of society will shun them, including the VERY people here who felt the right to comment against the truth that was so well said, and gave us who are in the trenches, a VOICE!

  • January 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    These behaviors seem to be the same as those frequently found in those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
    I have a child who has been diagnosed formally with ADHD, RAD and FAS. These behaviors, when they are carried to an extreme, seem to be characteristic of “Dark Triad.”

  • January 7, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Oh my, this is an eye-opener. I married a charming, violent man and ended up learning about Cluster A and B personality disorders. I learned that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be traced back to parental rejection between ages 3 – 7. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be traced back to the trauma of parental abandonment at the age of 2.

    It seems that the younger the child, the more dangerous the personality disorder they end up with.

    So I’ve been wondering if sociopaths and psychopaths were simply abandoned younger. Babies. Your description of RAD as a child certainly sounds like Cluster A as an adult. It makes so much sense to me now! I could be wrong, it just seems to fit…

    So sad. Much love and support to those who are dealing with it. Please keep working at it, whatever you can do might save their future spouse’s or children’s lives.

  • January 24, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Thank You for your informative article, it was good to read. I had a boy that resembled symptoms you have stated above. I wish I knew about this then. He has left my care and gone into semi-independence accommodation temporarily until he finds his own place, he is 18 now. He came to my foster care a few years ago and left last year. In that time his behaviour was awful and all about what he was able to get from me. He didn’t get on in school and I was forever going to pick him up early that he was put on reduced hours. Even so I was still returning to collect him, sometimes before I even got home from dropping him off. He couldn’t cope with large amounts of people. Eventually I had him diagnosed with A.S.D. They never mentioned R.A.D so I knew nothing about it. If I had known I certainly would have been different to how I was with him. My life during that period was made hell, I got no support from anyone but not for trying. I suspect there is a lot more to this and cross-over symptoms between the two. Medical knowledge on issues such as these is lacking. I wish people wouldn’t judge though as they cannot be 100% sure of what they are talking about. There is no definitive evidence to support anything. Thank You once again for your articles, they certainly get us thinking.

  • April 5, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    I work in a level IV behavioral setting school. I work with several kids with attachment disorders and reactive attachment disorder. I have one right now on my caseload who is especially aggressive and seemingly disassociated the majority of the time. Any recommendations for positive behavior support plans and behavioral plans or would be so wonderful

  • August 1, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Awesome article. I hope all my family and friends ready this. It’s not as in depth as some articles I have read, but gets to the point and skims the serface of what it is like to have a child with RAD and how helpless it feels to know there is nothing I can do

  • August 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

    As a parent raising a child with these issues, I think maybe the title should be “Why Parents of R.A.D. Children Always Feel Like A**holes” rather than Look. At this point I don’t care anymore what it “Looks” like but I certainly feel like an A***hole all the time. It’s a situation were if you are indulgent to the child he takes and takes until you put your foot down then he acts out, if you are authoritarian to the child he acts out, if you ignore the behavior, he acts out more so you will notice. What is a parent supposed to do?

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    I’am SO THANKFUL for this article. I have sent it to several of my close friends and family members so they can better understand our situation. It nothing but truth and explains to a ‘t’ what we experience everyday. Thank you!

  • September 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I was told so many times that I was the problem. I could not let our daughter out of my sight. I was protecting her and everyone around her from the lies, deceit, and manipulation that was our every day life. What 14 year old can’t leave her mother’s sight? I actually lost friends and family because they refused to believe this sweet, charming girl could be any of the things I said. My daughter once told me that when I said I love you to her she did not care. She said when I said I will fight for you that it meant something more though. I fought as hard as I could and except the lies we had her pretty well regulated. She met a boy though that told her we were crazy and moved out at 19. She has moved in with various family members who she liked to, manipulated, and even stole from. She was kicked out of all their homes. One even accused us of not warning them. Ha, I think that is the maddest I have ever been. I spent a lifetime being told I was crazy while warning everyone. Her boyfriends mom finally texted me after a year because the accusations against us were so outrageous. She started off berating me but when I told her what life was really like the light bulb popped on and she saw it all. We are friends now. My daughter is not dating her son anymore because he too began to feel the effects of the lies and manipulation. My other daughters rarely talk to her because of it All, but she swears they are best friends. No matter what they say to her she lives in her own fantasy world. She is living with a new guy now and adores his parents because of all they do for my poor little never given a chance girl. I know what she says to them about us and it hurts my heart because we gave so much to her. When she left I realized I barely knew the kids still living at my house. We have spent the last two years getting to know them and apologizing for letting her take all of our time. I have cried so many tears for her and our other children. The first year and a half I spent in a dark depression and anytime she texted I would be in bed for 2-3 days not able to function. I’m still like that sometimes but it’s not as bad. I pray for her every day and I do try to communicate with her as often as I can. All I ever wanted to be was a mom….. We adopted 5 including her 2 sisters and she is the only one with severe issues.i hate seeing her hurt her sisters and wish I could still just protect everyone. It’s a rough road.

  • September 4, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Wow……I had no idea there was a name for what / who I am. At almost 64, I just figured the way I was treated as a child was the reason for my personality quirks. I was adopted at the age of 3 months by a military family. My mother tried her best but my father treated me like shit. Let’s face it, I was a difficult child. At the age of 9, my father said he wished he could return me to the orphanage. It’s a miracle I married someone who loves me for who I am, quirks and all.

  • September 4, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you, thank you so very much. I now have an assuring mind.


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