Attachment Issues Causing Anxiety for Parents

Article excerpt

As a psychologist, I am a member of what is called the "helping professions." The term is generally accurate -- most of us are helpful, most of the time. Nonetheless, it conceals the fact that when all is said and done, mental-health care is a business. As such, entrepreneurial mental-health professionals are no different than other business people: they try to create new "products" and new markets. An example is the relatively new field of "adoption specialist." The not-so-implicit message behind this specialty: Adoption is a special circumstance fraught with psychological IEDs that cannot be negotiated properly without a constant vigilance; thus, the need for a specially trained professional to guide one through the adoption minefield.

I recently spoke with the parents of a 3-year-old whom they adopted from overseas shortly after she was born. Since then, several adoption specialists have told them that a rather nebulous condition called "attachment disorder" is an ever-present threat to their child's mental health. Apparently, her primary attachment is to her biological mother, even after three years. According to said professionals, she remembers her mother's face, smell, and voice, and there is a part of her psyche that constantly is grieving the loss. This unresolved (unresolvable?) issue manifests itself in anxieties, fears, shyness, temper tantrums, defiance, moodiness and other behaviors associated with normal toddlerhood.

The little girl's parents have no reason to think that people with capital letters after their names are pulling things out of thin air, so this barrage of misinformation has kept them in a perpetual state of anxiety. They have come to see the issue of their daughter's adoption behind every imperfect behavior. In addition, they've been told that they should make every effort to compensate for the child's ever-present attachment issues, including allowing her to occupy the marital bed. …