Recovered Memories of Abuse: True or False?

By Joseph Sandler; Peter Fonagy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Perspectives on the recovered memories debate

Peter Fonagy and Mary Target

T he last four years have seen a unique controversy between senior academics and mental health professionals. It concerns the validity of adults' forgotten, but subsequently recovered, memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). On one side of this debate are clinicians and survivors (e.g. Freyd, 1993), who maintain that most such memories are historically accurate. On the other side of the "battlefield" are experimental psychologists (e.g. Loftus, 1993), people who have apparently been falsely accused of abuse ( Doe, 1991), and so-called recanters (e.g. Pasley, 1994), all of whom regard recovered memories as principally introduced by suggestion, usually from over-eager psychotherapists. The former group tend to talk of "survivors", the latter of people suffering from "false memory syndrome". Both terms are highly emotive, which is hardly surprising given that the group designated tends to consist of individuals, usually women, who have entered therapy with relatively severe psychological conditions, such as chronic eating disorder, severe depression, personality disorders, and suicidal tendencies. There is a real danger that in the effort, by both sides, to establish the validity of their position, it is the in

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