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Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

  • By: Yael Oberman
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The term Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) refers to a disorder in which a parent deliberately fabricates or induces injury in their child in order to vicariously gain attention and nurturance. In more than 95 percent of the cases, the abusive parent is the mother. Injury can be emotional or physical. The manner in which symptoms are fabricated varies widely and includes, for example, tampering with laboratory specimens and inventing a prior history of medical treatment. The outcome of this kind of parental behavior also varies, and includes everything from discomfort and unnecessary symptoms to life-threatening conditions and even death. There is no consensus for understanding why MSBP occurs, although in some cases, perpetrating mothers do have psychiatric diagnoses or suffer themselves from Munchausen syndrome. ...

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