Disinhibited attachement disorder in UK Adopted children during middle childhood: prevalence, validity and possible developmental origin

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We investigate the prevalence, specificity and possible aetiology of Disinhibited Attachment Disorder (DAD) in adopted children without a history of institutional care. Sixty children adopted from UK out-of-home care (AD; mean age 102 months, 45 % male); 26 clinic-referred children with externalizing disorder (ED; mean age 104 months, 77 % male) but no history of maltreatment or disrupted care; and 55 matched low-risk comparison controls (LR; mean age 108 months, 49 % male) were assessed for DAD using a triangulation of parent, teacher, and research observations. Maltreatment history and child psychiatric symptoms were obtained from parent report and child language development was assessed. DAD was identified in 49 % of AD, 4 % of ED and 6 % of LR children. Seventy-two percent of AD children had suffered maltreatment. DAD was not associated with degree of risk exposure, demographics, or language. A significant association with ADHD did not explain variance in DAD prevalence across groups. DAD was significantly more common in children first admitted to out-of-home care between 7 and 24 months, independent of maltreatment severity, age at adoption and number of care placements. Implications for developmental theory, adoption policy and clinical application are discussed.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1386
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date9 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

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