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Disorganized attachment

What is Disorganized Attachment? Causes, Signs, Treatment

Disorganized Attachment stems from parents’ reaction to the needs of their children. These needs are not just physical or financial but encapsulate every aspect of a child’s life.

What is Disorganized Attachment?

Children need to feel safe and secure wherever they are, and when this is not provided, it may lead to disorganized Attachment.

Disorganized Attachment is a feeling of fright, distrust, and insecurity that a child develops for a caregiver meant to provide the child with a secure base.  Parents can frighten their children in many ways, and sometimes they do it without knowing.

What causes Disorganized Attachment?

Let’s look at some factors that cause disorganized attachment:


The primary cause of disorganized Attachment is Abuse from parents or Caregivers. The abuse can be physical, emotional, and  Sexual. A child who has been abused loses a sense of trust and feels insecure.

It makes the child afraid as they don’t know what triggers the abuse and want to avoid the person as much as possible.

The child may not be directly involved in the abuse, but witnessing the parent abuse someone either physically, emotionally or sexually can also lead to disorganized Attachment.

Highly Contrasting Behavior

Expressing different behaviour at different times can cause disorganized Attachment. For example, showing love one minute but hitting the child the next minute.

The child can not predict what behaviour will be exhibited, and this makes the child feel unsafe.

The child does not know what to expect from the caregiver, which makes the child question every word or thought before approaching.


Paying little or no attention to the child’s needs can make the child afraid. The child starts seeing the caregiver as unreliable to provide for their needs, which gives them a sense of looking out for themselves or finding a safer place—for example, a baby crying all through the night but is ignored. 

Parenting History

Disorganized Attachment can stem from the parent’s childhood experience too.

A bad childhood can lead to wrong Parenting. A parent who was constantly neglected and has also experienced a negative or wrong style of attachment needs to resolve this issue before having a baby because it may affect parenting style.


Parenting can be overwhelming, especially when the parent has other responsibilities. This can lead to a transfer of aggression to the child, lashing out unnecessarily, and frustration for the parent, which is communicated to the child hence causing the child to feel insecure.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mix of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that takes place in some women after giving birth.

It is common and can have harmful effects on mothers and their children, particularly if the depression persists for a long period of time after the birth of the children. One of the effects of postpartum depression is disorganized attachment.

What are the signs of disorganized Attachment?

You can check for the following signs  to know if a child is experiencing disorganized Attachment;

  1. Attention Craving: The child seeks attention and will do almost anything to gain attention.
  2. Avoidance: After seeking attention, the child starts avoiding the attention. These are the inconsistencies the child has lived with, and now the child is living it too.
  3. Fear: The child seems afraid of your presence, scared of speaking or acting when you are there.
  4. Inability to communicate needs; Due to fear, the child cannot communicate needs. The child can not say I want this because the child is scared of the response to expect.
  5. Lack of empathy: The child may find it difficult to feel for others due to what they have faced.
  6. Push and Withdraw: The child wants a hug from you but withdraws when you hug the child.
  7. Reduced self-esteem: The feeling of not being good enough, unlovable, or inadequacy reduces the child’s self-esteem.

Treatment of Disorganized Attachment

Disorganized attachment may have a forever negative effect if not addressed well and early enough. If you feel disorganized attachment is budding between you and your child, then it is imperative that you seek help.

Seek the help of a Therapist

A therapist can help you in the following ways:

  • Identifying the root cause:  Treating the root cause is highly important. Neglecting the root cause is like laying a good building on a faulty foundation. A therapist can help you understand the parenting patterns you had in the past and how they relate to your present parenting structure.
  •  Development of  Tools: Treating disorganized Attachment will mean starting afresh, requiring new tools. Therapy can help you create new ways and tools you will need to develop strong and positive attachments with your child.
  • Practical Parenting: Asides from learning about these tools, the therapist can guide a parent through soothing the child in varying situations.
  • Emotional intelligence: A therapist can also focus on helping the parent develop a range of coping skills to avoid becoming overwhelmed with varying responsibilities. They can help the parent recognize, manage and relate to their own emotions without transferring negative emotions to the child.

Ways to Prevent Disorganized Attachment

Disorganized Attachment may be difficult and take a long time to be treated, but preventing it is not so difficult. You can avoid disorganized Attachment by taking the following steps:

  • Recognize and Work on lingering issues from childhood before starting the parenting journey.
  • Accept and take control of your emotions.
  • Rest properly. One of the causes of disorganized Attachment is overwhelmed, your rest is essential, and it helps in building your emotions.
  • Seek therapy early. This is a treatment, but you can seek therapy early if there are lingering issues that you need help with.


Being a parent is not a day’s job but a lifelong job; creating a solid and healthy attachment takes time.

The parenting process might seem burdensome at times but remember the goal is to create strong, positive attachments in your family structure. Keep on working on it! It will pay off in the end!

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