Friday, March 26, 2010

Adoption, Attachment Disorder, and Spanking

Since Josh and I weren’t able to attend this year’s Adopted for Life Conference at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we downloaded recordings of the sessions from the SBTS website’s resources section and have been listening to them as often as we can.  The sessions have all been great so far, and I would recommend them to anyone, whether you have adopted, are considering adoption, know someone who has adopted, or anyone else, really!

The one we listened to today was especially intriguing—it was Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, professor at SBTS, talking about attachment disorders in children who have been adopted.  He and his wife adopted a daughter from foster care, and she had severe Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), which, he says, is extremely common of children who come from orphanages or foster care.  The entire lecture was fascinating, and I will encourage you to listen to it for yourself rather than do him the injustice of trying to paraphrase, but I want to zero in on one thing he mentioned that stuck out to me.

Dr. Jones spoke about how children with RAD have constant increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  This causes, among other things, their pain tolerance levels to be very, very high.  He mentioned that, while he is not against spanking in general, he does not believe that it is an effective discipline tool for such children because, “to get to the point where you actually have an effective spanking episode, you would have to engage in full-fledged abuse with children that are RAD.”

I immediately wondered if this could be a contributing factor in the recent death of Lydia Schatz, a young girl whose Christian adoptive parents literally beat her to death in the name of discipline?

No matter what methods of correction parents would choose during more normal circumstances, it is important for adopting families to inform themselves about the symptoms of, and help for, RAD, and to carefully consider how the likelihood of RAD will affect their parenting choices.


  1. Yes, others have speculated about this as well. I be linking.

  2. I hope that last comment didn't sound snarky. I was a bit rushed. I meant that you are not alone in that asking that question and I agree with you. Thank you for an easy to understand and informative blog entry on that.

  3. [...] Never Fails blog asks us to consider if Attachment Disorder could have had anything to do with Lydia Schatz’ death. I think that most of us who know [...]

  4. [...] Never Fails blog asks us to consider if Attachment Disorder could have had anything to do with Lydia Schatz’ [...]

  5. Yes, it did. Kids adopted from institutions should NEVER be spanked or have any other form of punitive disciplined doled out to them, ever. My daughter, adopted from China, has healed from RAD. The best diagnosis of the issues showing up in post-institutionalized children is a term called Complex Trauma Disorder. My daughter not only was diagnosed with RAD, but also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. To learn more please see three webpages:

    attachment and trauma network

  6. I am glad to see this getting addressed. I've been wondering if the same was true for Sean Paddock, who I understand was also adopted.