A study of Attachment Disorders in young offenders attending specialist services.


Attachment disorders, specifically Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED) are disorders associated with neglect and abuse in which people have significant difficulties relating to others. This study aims to explore Attachment Disorder symptoms and diagnoses in young offenders and factors that may be associated with them such as mental health problems. A cross-sectional design was used with 29 young people who were known to Intensive Services, aged 12-17 (M = 16.2, SD = 1.3), 29 carers and 20 teachers. They completed measures investigating symptoms of Attachment Disorders and psychopathology. Eighty-six percent of the young people had experienced some form of maltreatment and the rates of an actual or borderline Attachment Disorder was 52%. A positive correlation between Attachment Disorder symptoms and other mental health problems (as rated by carer-report Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Total Difficulties Score), accounting for 36% of the variance was found, with a large effect size (rs =0.60). Attachment Disorder symptoms were associated with hyperactivity and peer relationship problems.