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Attachment Theory

By: Dr. Arezoo "Azy" Khanzadeh

What is attachment theory and how does it impact children in foster care? According to the theory, a child builds an emotional bond that connects them with their primary caregiver across time. There are four types of attachment; secure, ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized. Most children have a secure attachment with their primary caregiver, but in the foster care system, this may not be the case.

Many children that are in the foster care system have been removed from their primary caregiver, and that in itself can impact their ability to attach to others (particularly foster parents).

Below is a chart that provides the specific parent & child behavior for each type of attachment:

Depending on the style of attachment, the therapeutic services vary based on the needs of the child. Most children in foster care require some form of family therapy. Therapy would include the foster parent, and also the biological parents when facilitating reunification. You are probably wondering, “well Dr. Azy, how am I supposed to know what type of attachment my foster child has with me or with their parents?”

This is where a clinical psychologist comes in handy!

They can conduct a clinical interview, and provide treatment recommendations to address the attachment issues. The majority of children that have attachment issues are at times misdiagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Now that is not to say they may not have those symptoms, but attachment is often overlooked. So next therapy session, please consult with the therapist and ensure that they evaluate that diagnosis as a possibility for your foster child.


About the Author

Arezoo "Azy" Khanzadeh has been working in the mental health field for over 18 years with an emphasis on trauma, anxiety and mood disorders. Her approach to therapy allows clients to take their own course, with her challenging guidance surfacing only when necessary. With a love of arts and crafts, Azy sometimes incorporates her sessions with art projects in an attempt to hear her clients’ stories and guide them through their own journey. Her community work has ranged from attending round table discussions, events, and providing training throughout the Fredericksburg-Stafford area in Virginia.

Born in Iran and raised in the United States, Azy currently resides in Stafford, Virginia where she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She’s bi-lingual and gets most passionate when she’s volunteering and gaining international experience from traveling abroad.


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