Sep 1, 1995
Child abuse & neglect
Very little is known about the long-term impact of Munchausen by Proxy abuse on children, as many victims probably are never identified and most have been lost to follow-up soon after termination of protective services supervision. This exploratory study examined the childhood experiences and long-term psychological outcomes for 10 adults, ranging from 33 to 71 years of age, who were self-identified victims of illness fabrication by a parent. Subjects completed a 33-item questionnaire including demographic and open-ended questions and a checklist of PTSD symptoms, supplemented by telephone interviews. Subjects described a range of experiences from poisonings and induced bone fractures to symptom exaggeration. Subjects generally felt unloved and unsafe in childhood; a few were directly aware of their parent's deceptions. They made limited attempts to alert others, with little success. Subjects reported significant emotional and physical problems in childhood, and problems in adulthood including insecurity, reality-testing issues, avoidance of medical treatment and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Most of their siblings were also abused, physically or medically. Some subjects express considerable residual anger towards the abusing mothers, but a surprising degree of sympathy for the fathers who passively colluded or failed to protect. Some of the MBPS parents have continued fabricating their own medical illnesses or harassing their adult children with fabricated dramas even decades later.