Fabricated or Induced Illness in Children: A Narrative Review of the Literature

Anne Lazenbatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Although child maltreatment due to abuse or neglect is pervasive within our society, less
is known about fabricated or induced illness by carers (FII), which is considered to be a
rare form of child abuse. FII occurs when a caregiver (in 93% of cases, the mother)
misrepresents the child as ill either by fabricating, or much more rarely, producing
symptoms and then presenting the child for medical care, disclaiming knowledge of the
cause of the problem. The growing body of literature on FII reflects the lack of clarity
amongst professionals as to what constitutes FII, the difficulties involved in diagnosis,
and the lack of research into psychotherapeutic intervention with perpetrators. This lack
of clarity further complicates the identification, management and treatment of children
suffering from FII and may result in many cases going undetected, with potentially lifethreatening
consequences for children. It has been suggested that there is a national
under-reporting of fabricated or induced illness. In practice these cases are encountered
more frequently due to the chronic nature of the presentations, the large number of
professionals who may be involved and the broad spectrum including milder cases that
may not all require a formal child protection response. Diagnosis of fabricated disease
can be especially difficult, because the reported signs and symptoms cannot be confirmed
(when they are being exaggerated or imagined) or may be inconsistent (when they are
induced or fabricated). This paper highlights and discusses the controversies and
complexities of this condition, the risks to the child and how it affects children; the
paucity of systematic research regarding what motivates mothers to harm their children
by means of illness falsification; how the condition should be managed and treated for
both mother and child; and implications for policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-77
Number of pages17
JournalChild Care in Practice
Volume19
Issue number1
Early online date12 Dec 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Fabricated Induced Illness
  • Munchausen Syndrome by proxy

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