Fabricated or Induced Illness

What is fabricated or induced illness ?

Fabricated or induced illness (FII) is a rare form of child abuse. It occurs when a parent or carer, usually the child’s biological mother, exaggerated or deliberately causes symptoms of illness in the child. In fabricated or induced illness, the parent may present the child as ill when they are healthy, deliberately induce symptoms of illness, manipulate test results, or exaggerate or lie about symptoms.

Why does fabricated or induced illness occur?

The carer may benefit from the attention in some way. There may be somatoform disorders in the carer, where they have multiple, ongoing medically unexplained symptoms. Personality disorders can have an impact, and, the opportunity for financial gain. Often, many of these issues occur together.

Fabricated or induced illness is often unreported, undetected, and is emotionally harmful. It is very complex issue. Usually involving the child’s mother, most cases are children under five at the start. It is, however, very rare. In one two-year study, they found just 89 cases.

Fabricated or induced illness is really an interaction between three key variables: the child’s health, the parent’s view, and the medical view. Fabricated or induced illness covers a wide range of behaviours in carers, from anxiety to deliberately causing symptoms. Some psychiatric illnesses and conditions may also affect the carer’s perception.

Indicators of fabricated or induced illness

Some of the indicators of fabricated or induced illness, include:

  • the medical history doesn’t make sense
  • treatment is ineffective
  • the symptoms disappear when the carer isn’t around, and
  • they can be seen repeatedly by different professionals looking for different things.

In all cases, the child’s normal life is restricted. Cases of fabricated or induced illness are very complex. Where fabricated and induced illness is suspected, referrals should be made without alerting the child’s carer.


The slides used in the video are available as a download to use in training groups of people. The download is available to members of Safeguarding.Pro, the essential resource website for Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSL) in school.

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