Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

USM Access Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Kristen Gleason, PhD

Second Advisor

Rebecca Nisetich, PhD


Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a mental illness that manifests in children who have not formed a healthy attachment to their primary caregiver, usually as a result of parental neglect or separation (Prior & Glaser, 2006). Unfortunately, we see this disorder manifest in children who have been placed in institutions such as orphanages. For many children, the symptoms of this disorder persist even after they have been placed with loving families and may negatively impact relationships with their new parents and siblings (Coleman, 2003). This often causes undue stress and tension within the family, necessitating professional intervention. Family therapy is often used to facilitate the formation of secure attachments between the adopted child and their new family. However, many different methods of family therapy are used to treat RAD and they vary in terms of effectiveness. This thesis summarizes attachment theory, how RAD effects development, and how it impacts the adoptive families. The effectiveness of various forms of family therapy such as Whole Family Theraplay (Weir et al., 2013) and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (Hughes et al., 2015) are discussed, with a focus on the importance of parent and sibling involvement in treatment.