Recovered Memory Dead, Not Gone, Panel Says. (Refusers, Returners, Retractors)

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- The recovered memory controversy of the early 1990s was revisited by panelists at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association and declared dead.

But, the panelists said, psychiatry must still focus on helping those trying to heal in the aftermath of such accusations--many of which turned out to be false.

"It was a pig in the python of life," said Dr. Paul R. McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University; Baltimore. "It came along and it was gone.

While it was here, though, the recovered memory issue spent plenty of time on the front page and on the minds of psychiatrists and their patients everywhere.

Among the panelists at the session was Pamela Freyd, president of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a group made up of family members accused of abuse based on recovered memories.

Accusations of sexual abuse years after the alleged fact by an adult child placed a crushing emotional burden on the families involved, said Dr. Harold I. Lief, professor emeritus of psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

"The shock is just enormous, and the re actions are tremendous confusion and anger," Dr. Lief said.

The majority of accusers in recovered memory cases were women, and the average age was 33 years, Dr. Lief said.

Based on his research, Dr. Lief put accusers into three categories: refusers, returners, and retractors.

Refusers continue to avoid contact with their families (about 56% of cases).

Returners reestablish relations with their families without a specific admission that they made false claims (about 36% of cases).

Retractors admit their accusations were false and attempt reconciliation with their families (about 8% of cases). …