Cortisol secretion in children with symptoms of reactive attachment disorder

Eva Kocovska, Philip Wilson, David Young, Alan Michael Wallace, Charlotta Gorski, Michael Follan, Maureen Smillie, Christine Puckering, James Barnes, Christopher Gillberg, Helen Minnis

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Maltreated children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) have severe problems with social relationships and affect regulation. An association between early maltreatment and changes in the daily rhythm of cortisol secretion has already been reported for maltreated toddlers. We sought to find out whether such changes were apparent in school-age children with symptoms of RAD, who had experienced early maltreatment but were currently adopted in well functioning families. We recruited 66 children: 34 5-12 year old adopted children with an early history of maltreatment and with social difficulties such as indiscriminate friendliness; and 32 age- and sex-matched comparison children with no history of maltreatment or social difficulties. Daily rhythms of cortisol
production were determined from saliva samples collected over two days.
The adopted group had significantly lower absolute levels of cortisol compared to the control group, but a typical profile of cortisol secretion. There was no association between cortisol secretion and symptom scores for psychopathology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-77
Number of pages4
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2013


  • maltreatmet
  • adoption
  • indiscriminate friendliness
  • reactive attachment disorder


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