Treatment for Children with Trauma-Attachment Disorders: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy

ABSTRACT

Children with histories of maltreatment are at significant risk of developing severe psychiatric problems. Treatment of such children is difficult and there are no empirical studies evaluating the effectiveness of outpatient treatment for children with trauma-attachment disorders. The present study examines the effectiveness of Dyadic Developmental Therapy, a treatment based on attachment theory, provided by one therapist in an outpatient setting. The 64 subjects all had trauma-attachment disorders, met the DSM-IV criteria for Reactive Attachment Disorder, and had histories of serious maltreatment. The 34 children in the treatment group were treated in weekly outpatient therapy at The Center For Family Development with Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. The 30 children in the control group were evaluated but did not received Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy and received treatment from other providers at other clinics. Eligible subjects were children between the ages of five and seventeen years whose case had been closed in 2000 or 2001. All children had significant past histories of abuse, neglect, or orphanage care. Findings for children in the treatment group, as measured by the Achenback and Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire, were significant decreases (p<.01) in symptoms of attachment disorder, withdrawn behaviors, anxiety and depression, social problems, thought problems, attention problems, rule-breaking behaviors, and aggressive behaviors. The findings for children in the control group showed no changes in the variables measured. Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy appears to be an effective treatment for children with trauma-attachment disorders.

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Correspondence to Arthur Becker-Weidman Ph.D..

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The author would like to gratefully acknowledge Ms. Geraldine Gallucci, a master’s level social work intern, who was placed with The Center For Family Development. Ms. Gallucci ensured that the follow-up questionnaires were mailed to the families and returned to the agency.

Arthur Becker-Weidmann is affiliated with Center for Family Development, Williamsville, USA.

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Becker-Weidman, A. Treatment for Children with Trauma-Attachment Disorders: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 23, 147–171 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-005-0039-0

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Keywords

  • Attachment; Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy; Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatment; Achenback; Attachment Disorder; Maltreatment