Münchausen’s Society

According to Joel Stein of the LA Times, a certain social class of parents in America is doing their children a grave and possibly dangerous disservice by imagining or overinflating their children’s food allergies.

Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special. Your kid also spends recess running and screaming, “No! Stop! Don’t rub my head with peanut butter!”

Yes, a tiny number of kids have severe peanut allergies that cause anaphylactic shock, and all their teachers should be warned, handed EpiPens and given a really expensive gift at Christmas. But unless you’re a character on “Heroes,” genes don’t mutate fast enough to have caused an 18% increase in childhood food allergies between 1997 and 2007. And genes certainly don’t cause 25% of parents to believe that their kids have food allergies, when 4% do. Yuppiedom does.

— Joel Stein
LA Times – Opinion Column

To be fair, Stein is nothing even close to being an expert on genetics, human immuno systems,  or allergens. He completely ignores  gene expression, David P. Strachan’s Hygiene Hypothesis, and the very real possibility of increased allergic sensitization being caused by multiple unrelated environmental factors that are affecting the subjects’ immune systems.  Stein does make a good point though, despite his column’s shortcomings.

I’ve noticed the trend myself towards over-diagnosis of various conditions in children. ADD, ADHD, and others. It’s very much as if segments of the American population have collectively contracted Münchausen syndrometechnically Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP / MSP) – and are busy gaining attention, sympathy, and an ongoing excuse for bad parenting by claiming their children are afflicted with a variety of disorders. It really wouldn’t be all that surprising that this syndrome extended to allergies as well.

That America is developing into a Münchausen’s Society seem apparent to me. What is less apparent is why swaths of our society are creating ailments for the children. Do these parents crave attention? That would be classic motivation in a case of Münchausen’s syndrome.

Is this condition a derivative result of the foolishness of propagating the “everyone is special” mentality? In the absence of any positive specialness on the part of their children or themselves, it’s possible that a negative specialness or handicap would suffice in th minds of some people.

Or is it nothing more an easy excuse for parents to use when their lack of skills and commitment to parenthood result in monstrous offspring? In the case of the “yuppies,” they are the society or “establishment” so, unlike other social classes, they can’t easily blame society for their children. Perhaps they choose to blame unfeeling nature and random chance instead.

I just don’t know, but I do know that America’s growing Münchausen’s society is a very bad thing.

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2 Responses to “Münchausen’s Society”

  1. Nance Says:

    Very interesting article, jonolan. For two people who have polar opposite worldviews, we seem to agree on many issues.

  2. jonolan Says:

    Nance, there’s a lot in a “worldview.” There’s plenty of room for even overall “polar opposites” to agree on many things. Though, in all likelihood, we’re only opposites on a few core points – like theology, but also of dramatically different opinion on the proper responses to many situations.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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