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Munchausen by Proxy: A Qualitative Investigation into Online Perceptions of Medical Child Abuse

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In Munchausen by proxy (MBP) maltreatment, increasingly termed “medical child abuse” (MCA), a caregiver fabricates or induces illness in another. The perpetrator's goal for the behavior is to meet personal emotional needs by forcing unnecessary or misguided medical or psychological treatment. Generally, a mother is the perpetrator and her child is the victim. There is a serious lack of research into most aspects of MCA, and this study is the first to utilize the anonymity of an Internet forum to investigate victims' first‐hand experiences of, and the public's opinions about, suspected and confirmed MCA. Three‐hundred and fifty‐six posts by 348 members were explored and coded using formal qualitative content analysis. By accessing an open‐thought online forum, this paper acquired information regarding social perceptions about the nonperpetrating partners who are unaware of the maltreatment; the disturbing and counterintuitive phenomenon of MCA itself; and the resistance often faced by those who attempt to report it.
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Keywords: Munchausen by proxy; factitious disorder; forensic science; internet research; medical child abuse; nonperpetrating partners; online perceptions; qualitative research

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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