Munchausen By Proxy Research Paper Sample

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Children, Medicine, Health, Disease, Abuse, Violence, Proxy, Illness

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/08


Munchausen syndrome by Proxy is considered a mental illness because of the implications that this disorder is tied to extreme emotional issues. The illness is described as being when an adult has something that is referred to as FDIA or fictitious disorder imposed on another. What happens is the adult is affected by the mental disorder FDIA to a point where he or she will make up a story about the person that they are caring for (usually asserting sickness). Normally this happens with adults who are caring for children and normally they are six or younger but in some cases the adult will do the same thing with an elderly person in their care. The American Professional Society on the abuse of children has labeled Munchausen by proxy as a form of abuse. The adult that is insisting the child is sick will go to extreme lengths to get people to believe him or her so that people will feel sorry for them and pay extra attention to them in their time of fictitious need. In some instances this lie will extend to the adult being demanding that the child undergo unnecessary and sometimes harmful or painful testing so that he or she can feel satisfied. Most of the time this type of illness is present in women or mothers however fathers and men have shown some signs of it as well. Many times there will be symptoms that can disappear at the hospital or doctor however they will show up again when the child is alone with the adult. The person suffering from this illness expects to gain praise and sympathy for their dedication to making sure there child is healthy as they will take the child to the medical professionals repeatedly seeking answers. There are different ways that people with the illness induce sickness for the attention they seek. In some instances they will make false reports or forge medical documents. In others the person with the illness will go as far as intentionally harming there child to make them appear sick. For example the person will poison, withhold food or smother a small child if it means the medical personnel will take their complaint seriously (Clinic, 2015).
There are still many questions about this illness and the exact cause is unknown about how Munchausen by proxy affects children in long-term situations. The reason is often it is difficult to identify who is a victim of this abuse or they are not followed up with close enough. There have been studies that were able to take a look at adults who reported they were victims of a parent who would make up their illnesses. These people were given a questionnaire to determine the long-term effects of the disease as well as a list to discover if they suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The results of the study showed that even as adults these victims were affected by the disorder in a number of ways. Some reported that they suffered many physical and emotional issues when they were children. These issues carried over to their adulthood in the forms of being insecure, problems sorting out what was real, avoiding medical facilities and PTSD. In some of these cases the victims knew about the abuse however they were unable to seek help. In other cases the abuse did not stop in the childhood and actually followed them into their adult years (JA, 2015). Other research studies have shown that children that do not die as a result of the abuse may start to create the same scenarios to seek attention themselves. They will sometimes even corroborate with their parents who suffer from Munchausen by proxy to create an illness. In some circumstances a bond known as folie a deux is developed between the parent and the child and this goes to the extremes as the two begin to actually believe their own stories that the child is having the made up issues. There have been cases where a child will continue to follow the patterns seen in the illness as they become an adult. This indicates that there is a chance that the child who has now become an adult will repeat the pattern in themselves or their own children (Rand, 1993).
In most cases the person who is suffering from Munchausen by proxy is a parent and the victim is a small child (usually under 6). However in some instances like the ones highlighted in a study the victims had reached adulthood and were continuing the pattern of abuse by engaging with their abuser in self attacks. Medical doctor George Deimel was able to investigate 6 people that he suspected were victims of Munchausen by proxy. Out of these six cases three of them had the appearance that they were willingly participating in fabricating stories for attention. In one of the cases the doctor was researching the person became the victim of a fatal induction of their own illness. This victim was a girl that was 21 years of age and actively helped her mother induce a bacteria illness through injections that ended up costing her life. The doctors were able to discover the syringe containing the bacteria under the victim’s hospital bed after her death and this helped them affirm the suspicions that it was a case of Munchausen by proxy that had followed the victim into her adult years. Doctor Deimel thought that perhaps the reason that there were adults actively participating in their own abuse was that they were suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is more commonly seen in cases that involve people who are kidnapped and instead of fighting the kidnapper they sympathize and become obedient and helpful to them (Gever, 2011).
Munchausen by proxy is also known as MSP and is considered a mental illness and a form of child abuse because the illness takes place in a person effecting them in a way that causes him/her to inflict injury on a child for attention. The people who suffer from this mental illness will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal and gain attention including risking their own child’s life. There are around two and a half million cases of child abuse that are reported in the united states every year. Of these 2.5 million at least 1000 cases can be attributed to a person suffering from Munchausen by proxy. It can be difficult to identify the people who are responsible for child abuse as a result of the mental illness because they appear to be caring and worried about their child. If it is discovered that a child is suffering from being abused as a result of their parent’s illness the child would be removed from the situation and could be criminally charged. Although MSP can be difficult to identify there are signs that make it easier to tell if a person has the mental illness. In many cases the abuser also suffered from child abuse growing up but this can be more difficult to spot. Some obvious signs include seeking attention, not leaving the child alone, the need to appear like a person is overly devoted, speaking for the child and having similar strange medical histories and or death involving a previous child. When it comes to this illness there is a reported death rate of around 10percent of victims that can be associated with the mental disorder. There is some evidence to suggest that victims of MSP will also continue the cycle of abuse and suffer from the mental illness as well. Although the exact reason people suffer from this disease is not yet known doctors do have some theories that it may be both biologically and psychologically associated (Stirling, 2007).
There are three types of people that are usually associated with Munchausen by proxy as the abusers. In 1986 these three types were identified as the people known for being help seekers, active inducers and physician addicts. Help seekers are often females and mothers who want to receive special recognition for their child. They do this because they are dealing with their own mental issues and this helps them to cope with these. Some of these issues include being anxious, depressed or exhausted. Often people that can be identified in this category come from a background which includes domestic violence, marital issues, not wanting children or being a single parent. Active inducers actually attempt to make their child ill through different avenues, for example they may poison there child to get the results they are hoping for. It is common for these women to suffer from anxiety and depression. Often the mother will be suffering from extreme amounts of denial as well as dissociation of affect and paranoid thoughts. In cases involving active inducers the abuser is able to feel accomplished through her manipulation of the doctors and the praise she gets for being such a good mother and noticing her child’s illness. Doctor addicts are associated with wanting to get treatment for their child for an illness that is not real. This person will go as far as to falsify information about their child’s medical history and current issues just to get the doctors to notice. These mothers will not be consoled by the physician saying that there child is healthy and will go to extremes to get treatment. In some cases the mother will find a way to treat the child herself if she cannot get the treatment from the doctor. In the cases involving the doctor addicts children are often older than six years old unlike the majority of cases involving Munchausen by proxy. The abuser may exhibit signs of being paranoid and unable to trust medical professionals as well as quick to become frustrated (Karlin, 1996).
It was not until the 1970s that the department of health took notice of child abuse issues and it was this same year they released a book highlighting the significance of babies suffering from battery. As of today there are many different forms of abuse that are recognized and attempting to prevent harm to any child. Munchausen by proxy which is purposeful harm inflicted by the parent to trick physicians has been recognized for the last forty years however it was not given a name until 1977 when a person named Roy meadow wrote a book about the abuse describing his own experience with the abuse. This book launched a new era of research about the disease however there has still not been enough findings to put any specifics on what it is or why people suffer from it. The reason it is so difficult to recognize is that often the abuse happens to younger children and may cause them lasting harm and crippling as well as death. In most cases it is difficult for the physicians to recognize the signs of a parent suffering from Munchausen by proxy. Some research has been able to show that if the illness is spotted and intervention is done there is the possibility for the person suffering to get help and for the child to be raised by the parent in a healthy environment (Wilson, 2001).


Although little is known about what causes a person to suffer from the symptoms of Munchausen by proxy there is a lot of research about what kind of impact it has on children who are exposed to this form of abuse. Often the only help available for these victims is a trained professional’s ability to spot the problem and intervene before serious and devastating affects like paralysis or death occur. One thing that can definitively be concluded about this study is that Munchausen by proxy is a serious disease that produces lasting effects on the survivors. More studies are needed but since the disease often claims the victim’s life at a young age it has been difficult for researchers to really understand everything that is needed to prevent people from inflicting intentional harm on their children when they suffer from Munchausen by proxy. A suggested topic for future research would be to determine if Munchausen by proxy is something that will be passed on as a cycle of abuse if the victim becomes an adult and has their own children. This would require researchers to determine if Munchausen by proxy is a mental illness or a learned behavior that may be exemplifying itself more extremely when it is passed on to a new generation of caregivers. The results of a study of this nature would be able to indicate suggestions for treatment as well as identifying people at risk for the abuse. Some theories do suggest that the illness originates both psychologically and biologically however without more evidence to support these theories little can be done to protect the abused and treat the people suffering from the mental illness. The implications of this disease do require that more research be done to investigate the true causes and cures for Munchausen by proxy.


Clinic, C. (2015). Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 1 April 2015, from
Gever, J. (2011). APA: Munchausen by Proxy Victims Not All Kids. Retrieved 1 April 2015, from
JA, L. (2015). Munchausen by proxy victims in adulthood: a first look. - PubMed - NCBI. Retrieved 1 April 2015, from
Karlin, N. (1996). Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Retrieved 1 April 2015, from
Rand, D. (1993). IPT Journal - "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: A Complex Type of Emotional Abuse Responsible for Some False Allegations of Child Abuse in Divorce". Retrieved 1 April 2015, from
Stirling, J. (2007). Beyond Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Identification and Treatment of Child Abuse in a Medical Setting. PEDIATRICS, 119(5), 1026-1030. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0563
Wilson, R. (2001). Fabricated or induced illness in children. BMJ, 323(7308), 296-297. doi:10.1136/bmj.323.7308.296
Stirling, J. (2007). Beyond Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Identification and Treatment of Child Abuse in a Medical Setting. PEDIATRICS, 119(5), 1026-1030. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0563

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