Training requirements for police in responding to and investigating fabricated and/or induced illness in children

Wilkins, C 2009, Training requirements for police in responding to and investigating fabricated and/or induced illness in children, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Training requirements for police in responding to and investigating fabricated and/or induced illness in children
Author(s) Wilkins, C
Year 2009
Abstract This thesis explores the training requirements for Victoria Police members in responding to and investigating fabricated and/or induced illness in children (FII), also known as Munchausen by proxy (MBP). It particularly aims to understand the police role with FII/MBP cases, the level of police awareness and knowledge of FII/MBP within Victoria and the knowledge and skills required by Victoria Police members to respond to and investigate FII/MBP cases from a police and multidisciplinary perspective.

FII/MBP is a serious form of child abuse generally committed by mothers. It includes the verbal fabrication of illness symptoms, planting evidence to give the appearance of an illness and direct assaults on a child to induce sickness. Such abuse can cause life long psychological scars, permanent physical damage, life threatening injuries and/or death. It is therefore vital that police likely to be responsible for such investigations are aware of its existence and possess the knowledge and skills to investigate allegations of such abuse.

This thesis utilises a mixed method research design incorporating quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. It is guided by an interpretative framework, and draws upon the general child abuse literature, literature specific to FII/MBP and existing FII/MBP training programs. Additionally, selected theoretical perspectives associated with language, gender, power and crime are examined to assist in understanding this abuse and professionals’ response towards it.

The quantitative component of this research consisted of a forty-five item questionnaire conducted with 1, 238 Victoria Police members. The members were from uniform stations, Criminal Investigation Units (CIU), Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Units (SOCAU) and the Victoria Police Academy. The qualitative component comprised twenty in-depth interviews with Victorian professionals who had dealt with a FII/MBP case, including police, child protection workers, doctors, psychologists, a psychiatrist, and a retired school principal.

The findings highlight the challenging, complex and multidisciplinary nature of FII/MBP investigations and show that, whilst Victorian police are generally aware of the existence of FII/MBP, they lack a true understanding of it, although SOCAU members were significantly more informed than detectives, uniform members and recruits. The media, in particular television and newspapers, was shown to have a significant impact in raising police awareness of FII/MBP, whilst training and/or SOCAU experience appeared to be the two key influences responsible for increasing members’ understanding of this abuse.

Four key training modules emerged from this study as being important for police required to respond to and investigate FII/MBP cases. These modules were ‘Identifying and understanding FII/MBP cases’, ‘The police role in FII/MBP cases’, ‘The multidisciplinary response’ and ‘The Investigation of FII/MBP cases’. Finally, the research demonstrates a need generally for greater clarity, guidance and structure to be provided for Victorian professionals required to manage FII/MBP cases.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Fabricated and/or induced illness in children
Munchausen by proxy
child abuse
police training
mixed method research
multidisciplinary approach
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Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 07:49:29 EST
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