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January 24, 2004

Loving Families and Reactive Attachment Disorder

What is RAD?

RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) is a psychological and neurological. . . disorder that occurs during the first two years of life when a child does not attach and bond properly to their primary caregiver. Fundamental processes do not occur resulting in on-going rage, fear of attaching to anyone, lack of trust, an unusual effort to control everything in their lives, a lack of self worth, and an inability to fully comprehend cause and effect.


Today I heard from a friend whose son has RAD. Her son and J7, my oldest son, are roughly the same age. We both used Gary Ezzo's "Preparation for Parenting" materials, as they were written and intended. We both love our children dearly and are devoted to them.

J7 was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive at six months old. J7 is still a little small for his age, but well within "average" and quite normal considering our family genetics. It took several years before my friend had an accurate diagnosis for her son's RAD. She shares about the evaluations her son went through, and how it linked back directly to her well-intentioned use of Ezzo's materials.

During these interviews and evaluations, they began to see what I had suspected all along. Finally, they asked me if his infancy might have been traumatic in any fashion, medically, emotionally or if he'd suffered abuse.

I froze. I had already been learning about the problems in the Ezzo materials. I had already done enough of my own research to know that extensive use of "crying it out" could cause major damage. And I began to talk and talk and cry and told about how we had implemented Ezzo methods with him.

The first question to me, after talking about the program was "do you think that during the times he was left to cry, that at any point he may have felt abandoned or hopeless?" I said "of course, I never thought it could hurt a baby, but now that I'm learning more, I know it can and I know he must have felt terribly afraid and alone."

My friend has worked hard at re-forming bonds with her son, and he has had a period of gains. But recently he has had some severe setbacks, and my friend is having struggles that no mama should have to go through with a child who is so dearly loved.

Reality is, the medical and developmental information in Gary Ezzo's parenting materials is severely flawed. His theories spring from personal opinion, not the Bible and definitely not medical fact. When parents make decisions based on inaccurate medical information, they are setting themselves up for medical problems.

Even when those choices are bathed in parental love and good intentions.

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Mommies, Babies, and Chemistry from TulipGirl
Today I came across this facinating article about The Chemistry of Attachment. My mother was asking me more about Reactive Attachment Disorder this week, and this article touches on the oxcytocin/cortisol impact on infant brain development. The wonderf... [Read More]

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Comments

I well remember the first time I read your friend's story. I cried and cried at the computer, and slept a little closer to my baby that night. Heartbreaking.

Posted by: Missy at January 24, 2004 03:19 PM

Forgive me for being hard hearted, but I'm always skeptical of syndromes that suddenly showed up. Sometimes I wonder if its not a way to drum up business for the latest anti-depressant.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at January 24, 2004 07:21 PM

Hi, Christopher.

As a conservative, I'm of a mindset that people ought to accept responsibility for their lives and not try to find excuses to not be responsible.

And we do see a plethora of syndromes, disorders, and other problems in this therapy-embracing culture. Sometimes these are used as excuses for people not accepting responsibilty.

However, that doesn't negate the reality of mental/physical illnesses.

I'm not sure how much you know about child development, but an infant's brain grows and develops at an amazing rate during the first year. Much of the RAD research has linked this very real problem to the overabundance of cortisol in stressful situations. In infants, this kills off brain cells, especially ones connected with memory and impulse control. This is one of the reasons what happens to infants is linked to long-term development.

RAD is more commonly seen in internationally adopted children who were not cared for as infants and young children.

Before you dismiss RAD as a made-up syndrome or a way for pharmeceutical companies to drum up business, I encourage you to read:

The Importance of Attachment

What Is Attachment Disorder

When the Bonding Cycle is Broken
Nathhan's Article on Attachment

I must admit, I felt a bit upset when I read of your skepticism, Christopher. Besides the mother I mentioned in my post, I'm friends with a family whose oldest adopted child has exhibited severe RAD. In both of these families, it has caused so much havoc and as much as these families love these children--love cannot just undo the damage that has already been done.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 25, 2004 09:39 PM

Hi- I just found you through Joanne's site. You have a wonderful blog, and I have enjoyed my time here this evening. :-)

With regard to the effects of Ezzo's "method", I hope and pray that you both are well on the road to repairing your realtionships with your precious little ones. I learned a wonderful lesson in Grace just the other day, myself, and am constantly amazed and awed at the healing and regenerative powers of Love. Thank you for sharing your stories about this. I hope other parents who also love their children dearly will hear the other side of the story before beginning Ezzo's tactics. {{{hugs}}

Dy

Posted by: Dy at January 26, 2004 04:28 AM

Hey! I just found your blog, via Le Sabot Post-Moderne!!! Looking forward to many visits with you!

Posted by: Marla at January 26, 2004 01:40 PM

I don't think the Ezzo material is any better than some of the "psycho-bable trash" you refer to. Most parents these days are at a grave disadvantage because they don't spend much time around children before they have their own. Consequently they have no way to actually evaluate anything that Ezzo or anyone else says about how we should raise our children.

"Do the zealots and wounded necessarily mean that the Ezzo's are to blame?"

That's pretty loaded, would you care to elaborate so that no one can make any false assumptions about what you mean?

Posted by: Samantha at January 28, 2004 04:07 PM

Welcome! I assume that you've chosen your name because you are "game" to debate Ezzo parenting. I was wondering--is that e-mail address for real?

The reason you are abnormally vexed by the Ezzo's paints the same logic as those who would look to a David Koresh or Jim Jones and say, "see that's why I'm not a Christian."

Well, though you aren't the first to notice cult-like tendencies related to Ezzo, don't you think it is a stretch to compare him to Koresh or Jones?

Do the zealots and wounded necessarily mean that the Ezzo's are to blame?

Oh, wait. You are comparing parents to cult leaders. Interestingly, it isn't just the "zealots" or "wounded" who have problems while implementing Ezzo's materials. In fact, from my observation, families who still like and support Ezzo have just as many problems resulting from the materials. They just haven't connected the dots yet.

Nearly anything in unwise hands can have lasting and detrimental effects.

Ahhhh. . . So you think that anyone who has had negative outcomes from implementing the Ezzo materials in their family wasn't using "flexibility" and "common sense." They must have been "legalistic." Sadly, that isn't the case. The materials are flawed, as they are taught and commonly understood by both the lay reader and the teachers of Ezzo parenting. I'm going to go into more detail in a regular blog post later this week.

As a body of information the Ezzo material sure beats the psycho-babble trash most Christians turn to.

Again, I want to address this in more detail in its own post. But for now--are you aware of the medical research that contradicts Gary Ezzo's basic premises in Babywise/Prep for Parenting/Along the Infant Way? Psycho-babble aside. . . Babywise is contrary to the basics of breastfeeding, physical infant growth, physical brain development, and more.

No one is ready to saint Gary Ezzo or canonize his works, but we shouldn't crucify him either.

I hardly consider it extreme to ask a Christian to be accountable for his actions and words. By the great changes in his many "minor revisions" of Babywise, Ezzo has de facto admitted to publishing wrong and harmful materials. I'm waiting for him to make a public statement, admitting he has written materials that are not backed by medical facts and issuing a recall for his books. That's not "crucifixion." That's accepting responsibility for mistakes.

You are welcome to discuss Ezzo parenting here on my blog. I assume you will keep your tone civil, and I'd really like to see documentation of the points you wish to make.

However if you are convinced that Ezzo critics really are mistaken, you may enjoy starting a conversation over here.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 28, 2004 04:41 PM

Based on quick research, Ezzo's stuff looks horrible -- no matter how well intentioned. Babies (and older children) need love and support and security; that's the way to develop real self-confidence and ultimately the sort of maturity that's the very opposite of whiny and fussy. One way to think about it (which may not work for everyone) is the difference between "good spoiled" and "bad spoiled". If you're having a really bad day and your spouse brings you a warm drink and cuddles up with you ... that's good spoiled. Does a baby deserve less?

If your major goal as a parent is to get a newborn to sleep through the night, feed only at certain times, and otherwise do things at your convenience, don't have children! I recommend the opposite approach to Ezzo (and Ferber, a "sleep through the night" expert): Attachment Parenting. Some of the proponents probably go overboard, and I may or may not agree with their views on other topics, but they offer the most wisdom I've found on starting a baby's life off right.

For what it's worth, our 3-year-old is polite, shares without prompting, happy, fun-loving, etc. (And, like any child, sometimes has bad hours and bad days. Attachment Parenting doesn't do the impossible.) One anecdote shouldn't convince anyone, but I think a fair-minded look at available information will turn up quite a bit of support.

Posted by: Scott Lawton at January 5, 2005 04:15 AM

I just read your post over at GCM and was wondering if you could write Mandy Locke, the reporter who did the article on the death of the young child whose mother was using Peral's teachings. I have posted her email address over at GCM and she is asking for abusive situations that have come out of the Pearl's teachings. I think Mandy would be interested in this article about RAD and how it ties into the Pearl's and Ezzo's teachings...that people are unknowingly abusing the children and thinking that they are doing the right thing.

Thanks, Bobbie

Posted by: Bobbie ( Cook) at March 22, 2006 06:12 PM

Hey I saw this post from the same place, it was just posted by someone at GCM.... after seeing your responses, I think I will run along to my blog and put on comment moderation because people sure are rude! Blessings to you! Its your blog-- say it how you see it!

Posted by: Janet at March 30, 2006 07:40 PM

I've been reading your blog off and on for several months now--found it through Deo Volente blog. Found your posts on attachment and RAD of particular interest.

Our two daughters were adopted from Russia at ages 9 yrs. and 12 yrs. One clearly shows RAD-like behavior and the other does not. This makes perfect sense now that we know both of their stories--from them, not the orphanage director.

Over the years we've worked with both of our dauthers providing security and building trust. They look and act so "normal", that many friends and acquaintances don't understand some of the decisions and choices we make. But the fact is, they need US to be their parents, and take the burden and stress from them that they grew accustomed to in their early years.

We've learned much about the physical/brain response to (and consequences) of poor attachment, and profited a great deal from Biblical parenting resources such as, "Heart of Anger" by Lou Priolo, "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp, "Age of Opportunity", by Paul Tripp, and articles found on the NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) website.

By God's grace and mercy we've seen a great deal of progress! And yes, there are days when we grow weary. Still, God continues to refine us and equip us for what He has called us do--love and train our precious daughters for His glory! Blessings to you as you seek to honor Him!

Posted by: connie at November 15, 2006 12:47 AM

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