It is important for coParents to engage in emotional connection with their children, met through physical affection. Especially in the early years.
Children neglected by coParents or abandoned at birth to spend their earliest years in impersonal, institutional settings may get their physical needs met, but their experience of feeling held tight and let go can become profoundly distorted. When care is impersonal and inconstant—when you’re fed and bathed and dressed by another random face in an assembly line; when you are emotionally unanchored—you’re at grave risk of becoming socially indiscriminant. Everyone seems the same.
Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) either fail to become drips, undifferentiated from those around them, their boundaries sieve-like; or they construct identities within boundaries that are vault-like, rejecting care from everyone, all the time. Either of these two outcomes may be adaptive and necessary to survival in an Eastern European orphanage, but both are terribly maladaptive in the world at large. RAD is both a tragic diagnosis and an excellent illustration of how early experience can shape how we perceive and engage the social world. Although RAD itself is not considered a personality disorder per se, the laws in these children’s essential identity and, therefore, in their personality resonate through their entire lives.
They are left vulnerable to innumerable social and emotional (as well as legal, educational, and physical health) dangers, relatively incapable of ever holding others or feeling held. Having never known an emotional anchor, they might never be able to become one.