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Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
Munchausen Syndrome

In 1951 a researcher coined the term "Munchausen Syndrome" based upon a pattern of self-abuse. Munchausen Syndrome is a psychiatric disorder that many people suffer from who abuse themselves, usually for some sort of attention or medical assistance.

Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy

The concept of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) was created in 1977. Typically MSBP involves a child victim and a parent, usually a mother or caregiver as the perpetrator. The perpetrator abuses the child physically, emotionally, or mentally. MSBP is extremely difficult to characterize and diagnose.

Types of Perpetrators

There are three primary types of perpetrators:

  • Help seekers. These are typically mothers or caregivers that seek medical attention for their child in order to communicate their own anxiety.
  • Active inducers. These are typically mothers or caregivers that induce an illness on their child by extreme methods. The child is sometimes given a substance to ingest to make them ill or are not fed properly.
  • Doctor addicts. These are typically mothers or caregivers that are obsessed with obtaining medical treatment for non-existent illnesses. The mothers or caregivers will fabricate illnesses of their children and seek medical attention.

Warning Signs

There are several factors and warning signs that indicate that a child may be a victim of MSBP. Although not all of these signs occur in each case, they represent a list of typical signs. The signs include:

  • Prolonged illness in the child.
  • Signs and symptoms of any illness disappears when the parent or caregiver is absent.
  • One parent is usually absent during the child's hospitalization.
  • The illness is not consistent with the results of medical tests and examinations.

Parental or Caregiver Behavior and Causes of MSBP

First, the parent or caregiver is usually pleasant and cooperative with medical staff and eager to have the child hospitalized. Second, they usually tend to be overly attentive and desire to have the child undergo multiple tests while hospitalized. Third, they tend to be overprotective.

No one actually knows what causes MSBP. The parent or caregiver may have lost a parent in their early lives or suffered from some sort of emotional or mental trauma causing them to engage in MSBP.

Effect on the Child and Discovery of Perpetrator

The child victim is typically six years of age or younger. The child will more likely than not have some physical, psychological or physiological issues as a result of being a victim of MSBP. Death results in at least ten percent of all cases.

The perpetrator is often discovered only after the child dies. The perpetrator may also be apprehended if reported by medical personnel or other individuals.

Treatment of a Perpetrator

Because it is unclear why an individual becomes a perpetrator of MSBP, the treatment for the syndrome is often unknown. The perpetrator may be required to undergo therapy or undergo some other treatment. If one is found to be a perpetrator of MSBP the child may be removed from the household temporarily or permanently and placed in foster care or with another family member.

Copyright 2007 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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