Risk factors for vulnerable youth in urban townships in South Africa: the potential contribution of reactive attachment disorder

Pritchett, R., Rochat, T.J., Tomlinson, M. and Minnis, H. (2013) Risk factors for vulnerable youth in urban townships in South Africa: the potential contribution of reactive attachment disorder. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, pp. 1-11. (doi: 10.1080/17450128.2012.756569)

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Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a psychiatric disorder developing in early or middle childhood as a consequence of significant failures in the caregiving environment. RAD results in children failing to relate socially, either by exhibiting markedly inhibited behaviour or by indiscriminate social behaviour and is associated with significant socio-behavioural problems in the longer term. This study examined RAD in South Africa, a setting with high environmental risks. We recruited a sub-sample of 40 10-year-old children from a cohort enrolled during pregnancy for whom early attachment status was known. Children were purposefully selected to represent the four attachment categories using the data available on the strange situation procedure (SSP) at 18 months. The Manchester Child Attachment Story Task (MCAST) assessed current attachment and RAD was diagnosed using a standardised assessment package. A high proportion of the children (5/40% or 12.5%) fulfilled diagnostic criteria for RAD; all were boys and were displaying the disinhibited type. SSP classification at 18 months was not significantly associated with RAD symptoms at age of 10 years, while current MCAST classifications were. This suggests that children in this sample are at much higher risk of RAD than in high-income populations, and despite a fairly typical attachment distribution in this population at 18 months, RAD was evidenced in later childhood and associated with current attachment disorganisation. The strengths of this research include its longitudinal nature and use of diagnostic assessments. Given increasing evidence that RAD is relatively stable over time and introduces longer term socio-behavioural risks; the high rate of RAD in this sample (12.5%) highlights potential developmental threats to children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Our results should be interpreted with caution given sample size and risk of selection bias. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Minnis, Professor Helen and Pritchett, Miss Rachel
Authors: Pritchett, R., Rochat, T.J., Tomlinson, M., and Minnis, H.
Subjects:R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
Published Online:18 January 2013
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2013 University of Glasgow
First Published:First published in Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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