Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 514-515

Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment

  • Tasha R. HoweAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Humboldt State University Email author 


Attachment disorder; Insecure attachment; Reactive attachment disorder


Disorganized/Disoriented attachment is characterized in Ainsworth’s “strange situation” task as a child who exhibits behavioral disorganization or disorientation in the form of wandering, confused expressions, freezing, undirected movements, or contradictory (i.e. “unorganized”) patterns of interaction with a caregiver. Most of these children have histories of maltreatment and may exhibit fear of the caregiver.


In Mary Ainsworth’s original work on attachment classifications [1] three categories of infant–parent attachment were elucidated. The majority of children were securely attached and showed appropriate distress upon separation from mother, willingness to explore in mother’s presence, and fear of strangers. Mothers of securely attached infants can readily soothe a distressed child and children feel comfortable exploring new environments while in their moth ...

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