Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy has Many Names

One problem that really hit us when we were writing our book chapter was that it was hard to aggregate all the MSbP literature together because it has so many names. And, these names have trended over time. I’ll summarize some of them here.

Psychedelic patterns

The 1960s and 1970s

1968 – In the Medical Journal of Australia, Birrell & Birell call it “maltreatment syndrome”.

1976 – In the British Medical Journal, John P. Osborne (not Ozzy Osbourne, *sigh*) called it “non-accidental poisoning”.

1977 – Roy Meadow names it Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in his “Hinterland” article

80s Background

The 1980s

1981 – Focusing on medication and other poisoning, Schnaps and colleagues use the term “chemically abused child” in Pediatrics.

– The same year, Ackerman & Strobel publish in Gastroenterology calling it “Polle Syndrome”.

1982 – Many MSbP perpetrators contaminate their victims – rubbing dirt into wounds, and worse, taking their own bodily fluids (vaginal, feces, saliva, blood) and introducing these into medical lines or through sexual abuse. This results in sepsis. Hodge and colleagues therefore publish on this particular situation and call it the “bacteriologically battered baby”.

1984  through 1986 – There is a debate about whether or not to call it Polle Syndrome, and this debate is led by Meadow since he named it MSbP and wants his name to win. First, in 1984, Meadow argues against it.  Strassburg & Peukert appear to agree with him. In 1986, Lerman continues to wonder about it.

1986Landmark publication by Libow & Schreier that I write about in an earlier blog post comes out where they try to connect the designation “factitious illness in children” with the existing designation of MSbP.

Cassette tape

The 1990s

1995 – Casavant revives the Polle’s Syndrome nomenclature in a publication in Pediatric Emergency Care.

1996 – Gray & Bentovim use the term “illness induction syndrome” in their publication in Child Abuse and Neglect.

1998 – Arnold, et al. in the Annals of Emergency Medicine call it “factitious disorder by proxy”.

Champagne glasses

The New Millennium

2001 – Adshead & Bluglass call it “factitious illness by proxy” in their publication in Attachment and Human Development.

2005 – Fish and colleagues actually propose changing MSbP to “fabricated or induced illness by carers”.

– Also this year, Bennett and colleagues call it “falsified disease” in the Journal of Layrngology and Otolaryngology.

2010 – Kucuker and colleagues call it “pediatric condition falsification” and “maternal factitious disorder” in Pediatric Diabetes.

2011 – Bass & Jones in the British Journal of Psychiatry use the term “fabricated or induced illness in children”.

– The same year, Mash, et al. call it “medical child abuse” in Pediatrics.

– Also that year, Jolfaei and colleagues call it “Folie à deux and delusional disorder by proxy” in their publication in the Journal of Research and Medical Science.

2013 – Greiner and colleagues use the term “medical child abuse” in their article on a screening instrument for it in Hospital Pediatrics.

2015 – In the Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior, Zaky uses the term “factitious disorder imposed on another”.

Today – The current official designation is “factitious disorder”, which is diagnosable.

What do you call it? What should it be called?

Please comment and let us know what you think!

Images by Viscious-Speed, Osckar, PublicDomainPictures, and Dariusz Sankowski.


One thought on “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy has Many Names

  1. Oh my goodness! That’s utterly bizarre how many names it can-has-had-will have. My head spins, and I knew some of this already.
    Meanwhile, the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy continues to not mention it at all, and as that is the go-to for most medical professionals… Here we are, with an uninformed front-line.


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