Web of deceit: a literature review of Munchausen syndrome by proxy

Child Abuse Negl. 1987;11(4):547-63. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(87)90081-0.


Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a form of child abuse wherein the mother falsifies illness in her child through simulation and/or production of illness, and presents the child for medical care, disclaiming knowledge as to etiology of the problem. From the literature, 117 cases of MSBP were reviewed. The most common presentations of MSBP were bleeding, seizures, central nervous system depression, apnea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and rash. Short-term morbidity rate was 100%; long-term morbidity rate was 8%. Mortality rate was 9%. Failure to thrive was associated with MSBP in 14% of cases. All perpetrators of MSBP were the mothers. The origins of this type of aberrant maternal behavior remain abstruse, as do the long-term psychological effects on the child victims. Guidelines for medical, social service, and legal management are provided.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Abuse*
  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Munchausen Syndrome* / diagnosis