This is partially because during the first year of a childs life, a substantial number of synaptic connections develop between the brain hemispheres. A healthy functioning brain relies on these connections to be solid. Sadly, children who were abused or neglected during that first year have poorly integrated cerebral hemispheres. This poor integration of hemispheres and subsequent underdevelopment of the orbitofrontal cortex (which is responsible for integrating emotional responses generated in the limbic system) is the basis for such symptoms as difficulties with emotional regulation, lack of cause-effect thinking, inability to accurately recognize emotions in others, inability to articulate the one’s own emotions, an incoherent sense of self and autobiographical history, and a lack of conscience.
There is hope though. Research has shown that empathy CAN be developed at a later age. But it takes time. And effort. And a lot of love. And more effort. I hear RAD parents talk all the time about how drained they are just from trying to hold things together from day to day (and I can relate!). But they know the alternative can be far worse. Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Edgar Allen Poe, Jeffery Dahmer, and Ted Bundy all had documented attachment issues that were left untreated (or untreated for too long). But don’t give up hope. You don’t HAVE to be raising the next mass murderer – in fact if you’re reading this and you have a RADish at home, chances are you’re already making a huge positive impact on that child. How do we know these children can be turned around? One particularly famous person had attachment disorder and went on to become one of the greatest humanitarians of all time. Her name?