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Medical Practice

Baby Stealing

Br Med J 1972; 2 doi: (Published 10 June 1972) Cite this as: Br Med J 1972;2:635

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  1. P. T. D'Orbán


    Analysis of 13 cases of baby stealing by women distinguished four groups of cases. (1) Girls of subnormal intelligence, who stole a baby to play with. (2) Schizophrenic patients, whose offence was motivated by delusional ideas. (3) Psychopathic personalities, characterized by a previous history of delinquency, hysterical personality traits, and a preoccupation with their desire to have children. Their baby stealing seemed motivated by an attempt to compensate for their emotional deprivation, and they usually stole children whom they had previously helped to care for. (4) A “manipulative” group with a milder degree of personality disorder, in whom the motive for baby stealing was an attempt to influence a man by whom they had become pregnant and with whom their relationship was insecure. The offence was precipitated by a crisis such as a miscarriage or the threat of desertion. These women presented the stolen baby to their partner pretending that the child was his.

    Baby stealing seems usually to be an attempt to compensate for emotional deprivation or frustrated maternal feelings, and a real or imaginary miscarriage may be a predisposing or precipitating factor. The offence rarely seems premediated, though there was evidence of previous planning in some cases, particularly in the manipulative group. The stolen babies were well cared for and were usually quickly recovered.