Experiences of the non-perpetrating fathers of Munchausen syndrome by proxy victims
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a psychiatric condition and form of child abuse that was first identified in 1977, wherein a caregiver, typically a mother, induces or fabricates illness in a child victim. Because children who are abused by a perpetrator with MSBP are likely to be hospitalized many times, it is important for the nurse to know warning signs of this abuse. Fathers are often described in the literature as passive and aloof workaholics; however, little is known from their perspectives. Through the qualitative analysis of two online support group discussions, the Theory of the Disempowered Father emerged. Fathers may not be passive and uninvolved. Rather, distance is explained by other reasons. Their attempts at helping the child(ren) is met with the resistance of the mothers' interference, the medico-legal system, societal stonewalling, and personal emotional responses. Information about the fathers may help health care professionals prevent, identify, and become involved in treatment of cases of MSBP.