Maternal Deprivation Syndrome

Maternal Deprivation Syndrome (Needs to include symptoms, signs and causes of disease, prevention of disease, treatment of disease.) is an Alternative name to this condition and is called Nonorganic failure to survive or thrive.

A failure of a child less than 2 years old to thrive due to intentional or unintentional neglect is called Maternal Deprivation Syndrome.

The Symptoms of Maternal Deprivation Syndrome are:

  • Decreased growth in the child, or being unable to keep up with or achieve the normal growth milestones or expected growth according to the growth chart.
  • Lack of desirable or appropriate hygiene factors for the child and the environment the child is living in.
  • Problems of interaction between the mother and the child.
  • While the mother or the primary care giver may appear to be concerned about the infant / child, interplay between the two and physical contact that is normally observed may be distorted or in some cases absent.

Causes of Maternal Deprivation Syndrome

There are many causes for the failure of an infant or a young child (below 2 years old) to thrive which are not due to ill health or disease. Majority of the cases where MDS occurs is due to a dysfunctional nature of the caregiver’s interaction with the child or the infant. There could be several causes for this. Some of which could be, but are not limited to child abuse, poverty, ignorance of proper child care by the parent etc. These cases can be termed as inorganic failure to thrive.

Certain Other Factors which Contribute to Cases of MDS are:

Parents of the child who are teenagers or very young and therefore incapable of taking care of the infant properly.

An unwanted or unplanned pregnancy may cause dissent and contribute to MDS

Lack of or lower levels of education of the parents greatly affects the way the child is taken care of.

Absentee or absence of the father and therefore the whole burden of caring for the child falls on the shoulders of the mother, making her resent the baby.

In many cases, the Absence of proper support network of family or close friends intensifies pressure on the parent/ caregiver and results in MDS.

In cases where there is mental illness of the parents, particularly the mother, or a severe case of postpartum depression could also result in MDS.


Prevention of MDS is highly dependent on education of the parent/ parents and care givers. Parenting classes can help in guiding them towards proper childcare. Also support is very important in the prevention . Referrals to a social worker or a physician should be made as early as possible so that parents can be sent to appropriate programs.


The treatment of MDS requires a lot of effort, inputs and support from a multi- disciplinary team of people which includes but is not limited to physicians, behavioural specialists, social workers, nurses and nutritionists.

In many countries there are several programs that are available for the benefit of young or single parents or parents who encounter other problems in caring for the child. Family, friends and extended families have to play an important role in helping in the treatment of MDS. They need to keep alert and recognise that a problem exists. Family and friends also need to be helpful and offer their support so that the mother/ caregiver feels reassured and is able to take better care of the infant.