HomeWhat's FeaturedAbout UsWhat We Treat & Who We ServeThis Journey is a PartnershipAdoption & Attachment Program (AAP)In-Home Services (IHS)Family Life Center (FLC)Case Managment Services (CMS)DC Office - Signature Case Management (SCM)Life CoachingEmployee Assistance Program ServicesOur PublicationsClient ResourcesContact UsPayment OptionsEmployment Opportunities
Client Resources

The information contained on this page, is provided for information purposes. Please consult a trained mental health professional for assistance.
What Is Secure Attachment?
     Secure attachment is a natural, lifelong process during which an individual develops responsive relationships. For an infant or child, these relationships make it possible for the basic needs of safety, closeness, and care to be met by being physically, emotionally, and psychologically trusting of another person.
     Secure attachment gives a child a deep sense that the primary caregiver, usually a parent, is reliable, nurturing, and a wise source of guidance while providing loving discipline. This kind of attachment is formed by an intricate, delicately balanced integration of cognitive, emotional, physical, and neurological information gained by the infant during interactions with significant people and the environment.
     For adults, secure attachment is a person’s ability to commit to a relationship with another adult in a meaningful and intimate way. Securely attached relationships form the basis for confident, competent functioning in all areas of life.
What Is Problematic Attachment?
People with problematic attachment have difficulty trusting others and frequently feel compelled to control situations. Sometimes problematic attachment patterns are seen in children who have posttraumatic stress symptoms. Problematically attached people can resort to controlling others even to the point of creating dangerous situations. This desire to control may be driven by:
  • Inability to explore situations with confidence
  • Inability to be soothed or comforted
  • Fear of closeness, commitment, or intimacy
  • Discomfort with or tendency to dismiss feelings
  • Feelings of inadequacy or powerlessness
  • Fear of being unloved or rejected
  • Sense of loneliness and alienation
  • Stormy and/or distant relationships
What Creates Problematic Attachment?
Attachment problems may develop as a result of the following risk factors:
  • Premature or difficult birth
  • Early bonding interruption (includes prenatal)
  • Multiple placements/adoption
  • Separations, hospitalizations/institutionalizations
  • Abuse, neglect, sexual trauma
  • Painful/chronic medical conditions or intrusive interventions
  • Chaotic family situations/domestic violence
  • Lack of nurturing and love, especially in the first 5 years of life
  • Tragic parental loss/abandonment
  • Inconsistent parental nurturing due to mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Interruption in parent contact due to divorce, military assignments or parent work schedules, incarceration, etc.
  • Parent-child role reversal
  • Problems with parental ability to respond to child attachment/exploration needs
Serious/Severe Symptoms of Problematic Attachment
Depending on the person, some of the following behaviors might be observed in people with attachment problems:
  • Pervasive problem expressing attachment needs
  • Frequent difficulty exploring the environment
  • Superficially charming/manipulative behavior
  • Inability to give and receive affection in a genuine way
  • Indiscriminate friendliness to strangers
  • Extreme separation anxiety, inappropriate demands, or clinginess
  • Unexplainable fearfulness or wariness
  • Nightmares, dissociation, and/or posttraumatic stress symptoms
  • Poor mood regulation (i.e., severe moodiness)
  • Hypervigilance or inability to express emotions
  • Hostility towards or disinterest in parents, family members, or loved ones
  • Destructiveness to self, others, animals, and/or property
  • Extreme defiance and/or power-struggles
  • Poor school performance
  • Persistent nonsense conversations or refusal to converse
  • Chronic lying/stealing
  • Preoccupation with blood, fire, gore
  • Lack of conscience or remorse


Informational Links

Emergency Mental Health - Community Services Boards (CSBs)
Attachment & Trauma Links
EMDR Therapy Resources 
Grief & Loss

Money Relationship/Behavior - Financial Social Work 
Adoption/Mental Health Information


Attachment and Bonding Parenting Books
Chamberlain, David. The Mind of Your Newborn Baby.
North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1998.
Granju, Katie Allison. Attachment Parenting.
Pocket Books, New York, 1999.
Hendrix, Harville, and Helen Hunt. Giving the Love That Heals.
Pocket Books, New York, 1997.
Klaus, Marshall, and Phyllis Klaus. Your Amazing Newborn.
Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1998.
Klaus, Marshall, John Kennell, and Phyllis Klaus. Bonding.
Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Inc., New York, 1995.
LeBoyer, Frederick. Birth Without Violence.
Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, 1995.
McCutcheon, Susan. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.
Penguin Books, New York, 1996.
McKenna, James J., Babies Need Their Mothers Beside Them.
World Health (the journal of the World Health Organization),
March–April 1996.
Sears, William. Nighttime Parenting.
La Leche League International, Franklin Park, IL, 1987.
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book.
Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 1999.
Thevenin, Tine. The Family Bed.
Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Wayne New Jersey, 1987.
Walant, Karen. Creating the Capacity for Attachment:
Treating Addictions and the Alienated Self. Jason Aronson Publishing, 1995.
Attachment Disorder Books
Alexander, Christopher J., Welcome Home.
Albuquerque: Mountain West. ISBN: 0-9754144-0-2
Brodzinsky, David M., Schechter, Marshall, and Henig, Robin Marantz, Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self
Cline, Foster & Fey, James, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. Pinon Press, Colorado Springs, CO. 1990. ISBN: 0891093117
Comer, James P. & Poussaint, Alvin F., Raising Black Children: Two Leading Psychiatrists Confront the Educational, Social, and Emotional Problems Facing Black Children. Plume Books, 1992. ISBN: 0452268397
Eldridge, Sherrie, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish their Adoptive Parents Knew. Dell Publishing, 1999. ISBN: 0-440-50838-X
Greenspan, Stanley & Greenspan, Nancy Thorndike, First Feelings:  Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child. Penguin Books, 1994. ISBN: 0140119884
Hughes, Daniel A., Building the Bonds of Attachment. Jason Aronson, Inc.  NY, NJ, 1998. ISBN: 0-7657-0168-5
Keck, Gregory & Kupecky, Regina, Parenting the Hurt Child. Pinon Press, Colorado Springs, CO. 1995, 1998.
Levy, Terry & Orlans, Michael, Attachment, Trauma, and Healing. CWLA Press, Washington, DC, 1998. ISBN: 0-87868-709-2
Watkins, Mary, Ph.D. & Fisher, Susan M., M.D., Talking with Young Children about Adoption. Yale University Press, 1993  ISBN 05178-6