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Therapeutic Care

Disorganised Attachment Style: What It Is and How to Heal

From the moment they’re born, children rely on their parents or guardians for safety and security. Depending on how well these needs are met by their caregivers, they will either develop a healthy, secure attachment style or an unhealthy one. Thankfully, modern research shows that attachment styles are fluid, so while the path to helping a child create more healthy attachments is often challenging, it is certainly not impossible. Let’s dive into disorganised attachment style in particular and understand how children can overcome it.
What Is a Disorganised Attachment Style?

Disorganised attachment style is characterised by a lack of consistent patterns in a child’s behaviour towards their primary carers. Unlike secure or insecure attachment styles, where children develop strategies to cope with their carer’s availability and responsiveness, children with disorganised attachment exhibit erratic and unpredictable behaviours. In some cases, they may even express a wish to be in close proximity to their caregivers, whilst simultaneously being fearful or avoidant of them.

Why Do People Have a Disorganised Attachment Style?

Disorganised attachment style is the result of inconsistent caregiving, neglect or trauma, as children become overwhelmed and confused by their unhealthy relationships. For instance, some parents might see their child in distress and instead of providing them with love and support, actively choose to ignore or mock them.

Unfortunately, disorganised attachment is more often than not an unending cycle, as parents and caregivers respond to their children in the same way their own parents and carers responded to them. Worse still, however, children in care are more likely to develop disorganised attachment styles than children raised by their biological parents.

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What Does Disorganised Attachment Look Like in Children?

Disorganised attachment style in children presents as a range of traits and behaviours that reveal their inability to form secure attachments. For example, as stated above, they may exhibit fearfulness, aggression, withdrawal or disorientation in their interactions with caregivers. For foster carers and other professionals, these behaviours may be incredibly challenging, and in turn cause feelings of frustration and helplessness. 

Strategies for Support and Healing

While the journey of disorganised attachment healing can at times seem daunting and hopeless, it can certainly be made possible by taking a trauma-informed and compassionate approach to care. Below are some effective strategies that can help your child on their path to healing:

Trauma-informed care

In order to heal, it’s important to recognise the impact of trauma on a child’s behaviour and emotional well-being. At Compass, our training courses for parents are designed to help you provide a supportive environment for children in care, so they can feel understood and accepted.

Therapeutic interventions 

You don’t have to go through this journey alone. In fact, it is advisable to seek professional support from people who are trained in attachment-focused therapies. This includes things such as play and art therapy, which not only help children process their experiences, but also develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Consistent caregiving 

As disorganised attachment is usually caused by unpredictable caregiving, both consistency and predictability are essential to helping children succeed. You can do this by establishing consistent routines, expectations and boundaries, which provide a sense of security and stability for kids.

Building secure attachments 

Because the ultimate end goal is to develop a secure attachment, it’s important to focus on establishing trust and developing nurturing relationships with the child. This means showing patience, understanding and empathy in all your interactions, being sure to prioritise their emotional needs.

At Compass, we believe that every child has the right to form healthy and nurturing relationships with caregivers. This is why we place a therapeutic approach at the heart of everything we do. By becoming a foster carer with Compass, you’ll never be left in the dark, as our trauma-informed approaches are designed to promote well-being and healing. Together, we can support children in their healing journey and help them develop secure attachments.

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