Good at School/Bad at Home? Bad at Home/Good at School?

Behavior Chameleons

Q.

My 16 year old adopted a daughter has been diagnosed with Attachment Disorder while incarcerated in a juvenile jail. This led me to read two of your books which I found very helpful and insightful. My wife does not believe she has such an disorder because she behaved very well during incarceration. She believes the bad behaviors we experience are choices. Can a child with such disorders behave while incarcerated and exhibit behaviors associated with such a disorder as soon as she returned home? God bless you & yours.

A.

This is similar to children who behave wonderfully at home or school, and do the opposite in the other. The issue is, where does a child/person/adult feel most threatened or stressed.  I have an adopted son who is now in jail and he is very comfortable there because he doesn't have to do anything other than what he is told.  It is a "safe" place for him where the world at large is not "safe".  Identifying the threat though is not always obvious. For example, the home may be thought to be a "safe" place but if the relationships/attachment could be threatened due to behaviors, then the home may be perceived as 'not safe' for the child and be a trigger for behaviors. Start with, if the behaviors are negative, there is stress/threat. Then, figure it out from there to reduce the threat or stress. One can view behaviors as 'choices' but not really at a 'conscious' level. The choices, if there are such, are based on 'what can I do to survive?'. These however are reactions rather than responses and, as such are not really choices.

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