Through research it has been established that over 90% of people who suffer from Munchausen’s Disorder are women. While there is never an absolute on numbers in research as a detective I would initiate a conversation with the mother to determine if she has any of the indicative factors of the disorder. For instance, was she the parent who accompanied the child to the doctors, was she insistent something was wrong with her child when the doctors were trying to diagnose the child? If the mother did not show any indications that she may be the parent with the disorder I would then focus my attention to the father. However, since 90% of sufferers are women, I would definitely start by speaking with the mother. While speaking with the mother I would gather information as to the mother’s educational background, criminal history , if any, siblings health history, if any, and the mothers childhood history as well.
The plan for the investigation would begin with the mother. If the mother fits any of the groups of indicators I would then proceed by questioning her as to her own health. There are many supporting factors of Munchausen’s Disease and why people suffer from the disorder. Many sufferers assume the role of the sick person by proxy. As a parent if a child is sick people will approach the parent with their heart felt sympathy and even extend a donation for the care of the child. The parent is usually the party who receives most of the attention because the child is sick and because of that they are not as visible as the parents who are the caretakers. The relationship between the parent and child needs to be reviewed as well, as a majority of parents who suffer from this disorder have an unusual attachment to their child, a very strong attachment and the parent becomes somewhat over bearing in nature to the child.
In the past half century Criminologists have achieved extreme progress with the development of their theories. A past family history of both parents would be requested and investigated as Cesare Lombroso attributed that biological factors could be passed from one generation to the next. While women are the parental figure who are encouraged to be the caregiver and socializer of the children it is only natural to begin the investigation with the mother as in conjunction with the statistics from the studies of the disorder as well. This could not be considered stereo typing as the evidence is supporting the decision of the law enforcement agency.
Through the use of law enforcement I would first initiate an observation of the mother in a controlled environment. One where the investigators would be able to view the mother and her interactions or actions by herself or with members of the law enforcement community. Upon the completion of the controlled environment I would then submit the mother to be examined by a law enforcement psychologist/psychiatrist. While through the social sciences Criminologists have been able to attribute factors such as IQ, learning disabilities to psychological disorders a licensed professional would be sought to make the medical determination.
If the child had factors such as numerous visits to doctors and treatment facilities accompanied by her mother, it would not be hard to begin the diagnosis. Provided that the child was not diagnosed with an ailment or illness until numerous visits had occurred. Common illnesses that Munchausen’s Disorder victims will complain about are a lot of allergies, seizures, diarrhea, hypoglycemia from insulin, so an in depth review of the medical records would be conducted to discover what symptoms the young child was complaining about and what the diagnosis was, if any.
In a situation where the percentage is much higher with one gender than the other it is hard not to stereotype and since the evidence from past studies suggests that the female is much more likely to be the perpetrator in this situation it would only be logical to begin the investigation by examining the mother and her interaction with the child. While the child’s medical records would receive an extensive review it would also have to be determined that the child in fact did not have an illness that was not caused by the mothers doing. While the Munchausen’s by proxy was only coined in the late 1990’s it has become a significant part of investigating child abuse cases when a child is involved and receives medical attention.
Through the investigation process it would be important to monitor the child’s behavior when the parents are around as well. Their behavior would be indicative of who the responsible party would be in this situation. An investigation of the mother would be the first suspect and if eliminated then the father, however based on research, statistics, and society the mother is the first suspect and until she is eliminated there are no other suspects in this case.
3. Lecture Notes,
4. Yonge O, Hasse M: Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy in a student nurse. Nurse Educ 2004; 29(4): 166-169