Child Of Rage: An HBO Documentary
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Child Of Rage: An HBO Documentary

This article revisits the 1989 documentary and how it is still relevant 30 years later.

What happens when a child is deprived of love? What are the ramifications of a very young child be physically and sexually abused? What do you do when you are a naïve family who adopts a child who has been deeply damaged at a very young age? Can a young child really be capable of thoughts of murder? These are some of the issues which were addressed in the original HBO documentary Child of Rage which was produced in 1989.

Child of Rage is the story of Beth, an extremely disturbed six year old who has seen more horrors than any child should have to endure.

As the film opens, we hear the voice of a child screaming “I want to kill you mommy,” as the opening credits roll. This is the voice of Beth, a six-year-old child who had faced the loss of a mother, physical abuse, and sexual abuse all before the age of 19 months. Both Beth and her younger brother Jonathan were put up for adoption. They were adopted by a minister and his wife. This unsuspecting couple quickly learned that something was extremely wrong with Beth.

This terrifying and disturbing documentary traces Beth as she goes through therapy in Colorado. The video explains that Beth suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, an inability to trust and attach to others. This is frequently caused by severe abuse or neglect. As Beth is questioned about the things she has done. When asked if she has ever stuck pins in people, Beth answers that she has. The reason that she gives for doing this is, “I wanted him to die.”

She also confesses to wanting her mommy and daddy to die. Beth also answers questions about physically assaulting her brother and doing sexual things to him. What increases the twisted factor to this is Beth’s lack of any real emotion about what she is discussing. She is as laid back and nonchalant about these things as you would expect a child talking about there day at kindergarten to be. It is as if she has no conscience. Unfortunately, this is all too accurate of a way to look at it.

Beth’s early traumas, experienced before the age of five, have affected her ability to care about others. She is unable to trust others because she had that trust broken and abused at such a tender age when the bonds of attachment are being formed.

The good news is that RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), does not have to be permanent. Through intensive and exhausting therapy (both for the child and the adoptive, foster, or biological parent), a child can learn to love and trust again. As the video progresses, we see Beth beginning to feel remorse for the deeds that she has done.

This is a chilling video that is not for the faint of heart. Although the video is 30 years old, it is still relevant today. RAD still exists. Very young children are still traumatized by severe abuse and neglect. And unsuspecting families are still victimized by these tiny victimize children turned victimizer. Child of Rage should be required reading for all foster, foster/adopt and adoptive families. It is divided into three parts totaling a little over 27 minutes.

For more information on RAD go to The diagnostic qualities of RAD can be found in the DSM-IV-TR for Diagnoses.



 HBO: America Undercover

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Comments (2)

Reactive Attachment Disorder, children are almost always intensely angry children. If therapy is effective it will constructively address the child’s anger. One therapeutic goal is to reduce the child’s anger. When it works, this is a sign of the success. Hence, the label Rage Reduction Therapy was fitting. The present attachment therapies, however, address a broader range of the emotions, including intense fear and the sadness. All attachment therapy of which I am aware has an emphasis on addressing the child’s troubling emotions versus being only a cognitive or the behavioral approach.


This documentary cannot be 30 years old. I was BORN the year it was made and am 22 years of age.