- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Cinderella's syndrome

Related people

False accusation by adopted children of being mistreated or neglected by their adoptive mothers.

The term "Cinderella syndrome" was coined by Dr. Peter K. Lewin in 1976, in a letter to the editor of Canadian Medical Association Journal. The letter reads:

    To the editor: The following case occurred some time ago but its message is relevant today, for the condition is not rare.

    A 12 year old girl was referred to me because of problems at home and at school (inattention, temper tantrums, failing grades and wanting to leave home).

    She was well developed and pubescent and had no physical abnormalities.

    In the presence of her stepmother (her mother had died when she was 5) she was pleasant, cooperative and answered in a coherent, logical fashion. She mentioned that at home she always fell ill at ease, being criticized for many of her household activities, which included looking after two stepsiblings, aged 2 and 4. The situation was such that she looked forward to either leaving voluntarily or running away and looking for her "prince".

    The stepmother rambled away about the misfortunes of the family and the misdeeds of her stepdaughter.

    When her father was interviewed he agreed that the main problem was with his wife, not with his daughter, but that he did not interfere in order not to antagonize his wife.

    Although the girl did not find her "prince", her situation improved greatly following family counselling and the active involvement of the father in the management of his daughter's problems.

We thank Peter K. Lewin for submitting this material. Lewin is staff physician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and Assistant Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto.


  • Peter K. Lewin:
    Cinderella syndrome. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1976, 115: 169.
  • J. Goodwin, et al:
    Cinderella syndrome: Children who simulate neglect.
    American Journal of Psychiatry, Washington, D.C., 1980, 137: 1223-1225.
  • A. E. Rodin, J. D. Key:
    Encyclopedia of medical eponyms derived from literary characters.
    Melbourne, FLorida, Kirger, 1989.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

What is Whonamedit?

Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person.


Whonamedit? does not give medical advice.
This survey of medical eponyms and the persons behind them is meant as a general interest site only. No information found here must under any circumstances be used for medical purposes, diagnostically, therapeutically or otherwise. If you, or anybody close to you, is affected, or believe to be affected, by any condition mentioned here: see a doctor.