European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 267–276 | Cite as

Social use of language in children with reactive attachment disorder and autism spectrum disorders

  • Fareeha Amber Sadiq
  • Louise Slator
  • David Skuse
  • James Law
  • Christopher Gillberg
  • Helen Minnis
Original Contribution


Children with a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) appear to show difficulties in social understanding. We aimed to compare the pragmatic language functioning of children with (RAD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Assessments were made in three groups of children aged 5–8 years, with verbal IQ estimates in the normal range: 35 with a RAD diagnosis, 52 with an ASD diagnosis and 39 with typical development. The Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC) was used to compare their pragmatic language skills, and ADI-R algorithms were used to compare autistic symptomatology, according to parent report. According to the CCC, the RAD group demonstrated significant problems in their use of context, rapport and social relationships with a degree of severity equivalent to children in the ASD comparison group. More than 60% of the group with RAD met ADI-R clinical criteria on the Use of Language and Other Social Communication Skills subscale, 46% on the Reciprocal Social Interaction subscale, and 20% had significant repetitive and stereotyped behaviours. Children with RAD appear to be at least as impaired as children with ASD in certain domains of social relatedness, particularly in their pragmatic language skills.


Reactive attachment disorder Autism Pragmatic language Social communication 



The study was funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive. We are grateful to all the families who took part in the study. The study statistical expert was Dr. David Young, Consultant Statistician, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fareeha Amber Sadiq
    • 1
  • Louise Slator
    • 2
  • David Skuse
    • 2
  • James Law
    • 3
  • Christopher Gillberg
    • 1
  • Helen Minnis
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Section of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Caledonia House, Royal Hospital for Sick ChildrenUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child HealthUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Institute of Health and Society, School of Education, Communication and Language SciencesUniversity of NewcastleNewcastle-upon-TyneUK
  4. 4.Psychological Medicine, College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Caledonia House, Yorkhill HospitalUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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