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09-02-2016 | Uitgave 7/2016 Open Access

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 7/2016

Disinhibited Attachment Disorder in UK Adopted Children During Middle Childhood: Prevalence, Validity and Possible Developmental Origin

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 7/2016
Catherine Kay, Jonathan Green, Kishan Sharma
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10802-016-0131-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


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.

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