When an infant perceives its mother as consistently protective and nurturing, it will actively seek out contact with her. In psychological language, a child who demonstrates this kind of comfort with its mother is said to be securely attached to her.
Impediments to a secure attachment can manifest in several ways. There can be an avoidance of contact, as exhibited by withdrawal, inhibition, or hypervigilance; there can be a resistance to contact, as exhibited by pushing others away, hitting and slapping them, or angry outbursts; and there can be indiscriminate sociability, as exhibited by excessive familiarity with strangers, or a lack of selectivity in choosing attachment figures.
These impediments can result because the child has been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, or, even more specifically, has been witness to domestic violence or has suffered the emotional betrayal and confusion of a mother who abuses drugs or alcohol.
Insecure attachment styles can be diagnosed as Reactive Attachment Disorder if the cause of the non-attachment can be attributed to pathogenic care: persistent disregard for the child’s emotional or physical needs, or repeated changes of primary caregiver (as in foster care).