Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Attachment Problems
The area of FASD offers a wealth of opportunities for researchers interested in the topic of attachment. To date, few studies have specifically examined the area of FASD and disordered attachment representations. The following are considerations to take into account when examining the topic of FASD and attachment problems:
Lack of research on unique feelings, thoughts, and behavior patterns of individuals with FASD and attachment problems.
Lack of training opportunities for criminal justice and mental health professionals to learn about the unique needs and treatment options for individuals with FASD and attachment problems.
Lack of research into the clinical benefit of simultaneously treating for both FASD and attachment problems.
Poor attachment with the primary caregiver is quite common in youth with FASD (Buxton, 2005; Kulp, 2002).
Poor attachment with the primary caregiver should be addressed with early and intense intervention efforts (O’Connor, 1996).
Poor attachment with the primary caregiver in children with FASD may be improved with the increased promotion of emotional and physical safety for the individual (O’Connor, et al., 2002).
Improving poor attachment quality between a primary caregiver and a child with FASD likely requires a clear understanding of FASD’s cognitive, social, and adaptive deficits (Page, 2002).
Poor attachment with the primary caregiver in children with FASD can be caused by the disorder’s cognitive deficits, even in spite of stable and caring homes (Page, 2002).
The neurological deficits of FASD can result in sensory processing and self-regulation issues (BMA, 2007), which may limit a child’s ability to self-calm or be calmed by parents (Carpenter, 2011). As such, the establishment of parental attachment may be complicated in children with FASD (Westrup, 2013).
The likelihood of developmental deficits is only enhanced by the co-occurrence of prenatal alcohol exposure with other environmental risk factors like neglect and poor attachment with the primary caregiver (Lacher, Nichols, Nichols, & May, 2012).
The presence of FASD and poor attachment with a primary caregiver can increase the likelihood of ongoing cognitive, social, and adaptive functioning deficits throughout the lifespan (Adubato & Cohen, 2011).
The combination of prenatal alcohol exposure and involvement in the foster care system may exacerbate issues with establishing secure attachment with one’s primary caregiver (Stratton, Howe, & Battaglia, 1996; Brown et al., 2014).
The presence of a secure attachment with a primary caregiver in children with prenatal alcohol exposure may decrease the likelihood of succumbing to comorbid conditions, and vice-versa (O’Connor, Kogan, & Findlay, 2002).
With proper training and experience in the areas of attachment theory and FASD, mental health and social work professionals may be able to help primary caregivers establish secure attachment with children who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol. However, additional research is needed to determine the validity of this statement.
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