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Fabricated or induced illness

We don't fully understand why some parents or carers fabricate or induce illness in a child.

It's likely the parent or carer will have a history of previous traumatic experiences. This might include physical or sexual abuse.

Mothers may have abnormal "attachment" experiences with their own mothers.

This may affect their parenting and relationship with their children. They may repeatedly see a doctor to satisfy an emotional need to get attention for the child.

Previous medical history

One or both parents may have a history of self-harm or drug or alcohol misuse.

The mother may have experienced the death of another child, or a difficult pregnancy.

Personality disorder

A high proportion of mothers involved in FII have a personality disorder. In particular, a borderline personality disorder. They can find reward in behaviour or situations that other people find distressing.

Some mothers may find their child being under medical care rewarding.

Other mothers may feel a sense of resentment towards their child. Because they have a happy childhood, unlike their own.

Related topic

Borderline personality disorder


Another theory is that it is a kind of role-playing.

It allows a mother to adopt the role of a caring and concerned mother. At the same time, it allows her to pass the responsibility of caring for a child onto the medical staff.


FFI might also be a way for the mother to escape negative feelings and unpleasant emotions.

Creating a permanent crisis around the child allows the mother to focus her thoughts on the child's treatment. She can do this while keeping her own negative feelings and emotions at bay.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 31/10/2018
next review due: 31/10/2021

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