Continuation on RAD

Today will be a continuation on the subject of RAD. In this post, I will highlight some of the symptoms and elaborate on the symptoms that we personally experienced with our adopted girls. I hope to bring both awareness and encouragement to adoptive families who may be navigating through some of the issues associated with RAD.

RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder. There is a list of symptoms for RAD in the books written by Dr. Gregory Keck, PhD. and Regina M. Kupecky, LSW. The title of the books I’m referencing are “Adopting the Hurt Child” and “Parenting the Hurt child.”

The list of RAD symptoms range from:

  • being charming
  • lacking of affection
  • lying
  • stealing
  • lacking conscience
  • cruelty to animals
  • preoccupation with fire.

For a full list of symptoms look in the above books. They are great resources. Another option is to google “RAD” to find a myriad of information.

As mentioned in my previous post, even a newborn can decide to build a wall around their heart to protect themselves from the pain of being orphaned. This happens very early on, sometimes the very moment the birth mother gives them up. The decision/vow not to let anyone close because they don’t want to be hurt again sets into their hearts like cement.

I want to encourage any parent of an adopted child experiencing difficulties with RAD – it is not your fault! You didn’t cause RAD. The birth mom or birth family disrupted the normal bonding development of your adopted child. RAD happens before an adoptive family receives an orphan into their home. The birth mom is the relationship that affected your child’s behavior. Then, if the child was repeatedly disrupted in the bonding process, the deficit of bonding is even worse. The orphan can then decide to build the wall around their heart even more in-impenetrable. The longer the orphan does this, the harder it is for the orphan to be healed. So, it is important to get help for your child when they are still young.

Topics of RAD

I am going to elaborate on some of the symptoms (listed above) which I personally experience. There will be more on this topic in later posts:

Charming – when your child is very pleasing and pleasant to everyone in public but treats you like crap at home. Especially the adoptive mother. You’re the person they chose to project their anger on because you have stepped into the role of their birth mother. Remember your child is ultimately angry at but fantasizing about their birth mom. It’s a very twisted frame of mind going on in their head. The birth mom is the one that caused RAD to set in to your child’s heart. So, when you get home YOU get treated like crap? You get punished with their anger and difficult behavior to keep you at a distance. I can’t begin to number the times people would say to me, “Your children are so sweet and well behaved.” To explain to them that my children are Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde wouldn’t make sense to them so I would just smile and nod my head in frustration.

Lack of affection –  If you’re able to bond to others then you can give your love away and not feel like you have to protect your heart. But, if your orphan has RAD, when you hug them they protect their heart furiously so you can’t work yourself into their affections and heart. They probably have that spot only reserved for their birth mom if ever she would take them back or ask for forgiveness. Orphaned children with RAD lack affection unless it is on their terms with the intent to manipulate to get something they want.

My first adopted daughter would stiffen up when I hugged her. But, if she wanted to, she could somehow cover her heart and hug me mainly to move the hearts of anyone watching. If we had guests, she would make huge spectacles of loving affection towards me saying, “mommy I love you.”

Lying – There are three types of lying:

1) Catching them with “their hand in the cookie jar” and they deny it.

2) Expressing “half-truths” that make the situation seem all true.

3) Exaggerating lies that made what they are saying seem better or worse than it really was.

My girls were masters’ at all three types of lying. It became so easy for them to make something up. But, it became harder and harder for them to remember the story lie that they made up last time to cover the lie before that one. On and on the lies went.

Stealing – My adopted daughters only stole a couple of times to my recollection. Their friends had things they wanted so they stole them.

Lack of conscience – Even though my adopted daughters lived under the same roof, were taught the same morals, and went to the same church as my biological daughter, they still decided on their own morals. There morals allowed the stealing, lying, manipulation, etc.

Cruelty to animals and preoccupation with fire – my second adopted child was the only one that was cruel to animals.
I have no personal experience with RAD and the preoccupation with fire.


In upcoming posts, I will cover other symptoms of RAD. In the meantime, have you ever experienced any of the above mentioned symptoms with your adopted children? Have you found successful methods to deter these behaviors or cope as a family? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.