Many theories exist as to why a woman would cause an illness in her child. Common to most theories is a traumatic loss earlier in the mother's life; such as maternal rejection and the lack of attention as an infant, the loss of a parent, being victimized by neglectful or abusive treatment, or even traumatic disillusionment.
Of the profile types listed earlier, Help Seekers are thought to be making an uncomplicated cry for help. Unlike the more typical MSBP parent, who will shun therapy and refuse placement of her child in a protective agency, these mothers readily acquiesce to both measures.
Active Inducers and Doctor Addicts express rage engendered by the earlier loss by devaluing and deceiving medical staff in a game of false illness. By devaluing the physician, these mothers create for themselves protection, recognition, and security, all of which they violently crave.
The perpetrators may also have one or more of the following reasons for causing harm to their child:
- Most offenders crave the attention gleaned from hospital staff, doctors, and family members;
- Offenders become more aggressive as time passes;
- Some offenders derive enjoyment from knowing what is wrong with the child while medical experts remain baffled;
- Some offenders may fear going home or adjusting to a normal daily routine without being the center of attention;
- An offender who is praised as a hero for saving a child might elect to re-create that euphoria by fabricating subsequent incidents of illness and recovery of the victim.
Successful psychotherapy for Active Inducers and Doctor Addicts is difficult to achieve. The mother's denial is often so strong that she may not admit to the act. They may also not be able to verbalize their feelings because they are accustomed to acting on them. But the most difficult part is the patient must tell the truth. For an MSBP perpetrator, the boundary between truth and non-truth is greatly blurred.
Effects on Children
The effects of MSBP on children can be quite severe. Through the course of MSBP a child may have been subjected to numerous invasive procedures ranging from daily transfusions to extremes, such as surgically implanted catheters and bone marrow sampling. Some reports have stated cases of destructive skeletal impacts, blindness, kidney damage, and mental retardation.
From a psychological standpoint, the child may view illness as being a requirement to receive love from the mother, and ultimately the child may develop Münchhausen Syndrome. Socially, they are also hindered by large amounts of time away from school and their lack of participation in group activities.
Generally, MSBP gets resolved in one of three ways:
- The child dies;
- The police apprehend the offender;
- The child grows old enough that the perpetrator feels it is too dangerous to continue and selects a new victim.
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