Can You Recover Memories of Childhood Abuse

Can You Recover Memories of Childhood Abuse

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The idea of whether a memory can be forgotten and then remembered, and the thought of suggesting a memory and then have it remembered are at the heart of the childhood abuse issue. Most clinical psychologists believe recovered memory is rare, although laboratory studies have shown that the memory is usually not accurate and can be influenced by outside factors. This issue has not been directly studied since researchers have not subjected people to traumatic events to test their memory of them. Therefore, it has not been determined if a traumatic event is encoded and stored differently in memory compared to a non-traumatic event. (American Psychological Association, 1995).
Traumas affect the short and long term memory of children differently from adults. Some believe childhood trauma may lead to problems in memory storage and retrieval. Severe forms of child sexual abuse are conducive to disturbances of memory such as disassociation or delayed memory. Researchers have argued that there is no support that disassociation shelters people from the pain of memory. There is a consensus among researchers and clinicians that most people that were sexually abused as children remember most of the encounter. (American Psychological Association, 1995).

The issue that relates to Recovered memory versus a pseudomemory continues to have conflicting views. Most leaders agree that it is a rare occurrence that early childhood abuse that has been forgotten can be remembered later. The leaders also agree that it is possible to construct psuedomemories for events that never happened. A growing body of research evidence suggests that psuedomemories of child abuse even though it never happened are both persistent and convincing. (Brainerd & Reyna, 1998).

The issues that relate to the validity of memories of childhood abuse has raised many critical issues for the psychological community. Several issues have not been solved which points to the ideas that many areas of research must still be pursued. Some of them are as follows:
• Need a better understanding of how we store recollections of events in memory both
accurate and inaccurate. (American Psychological Association, 1995).
• Determine which clinical techniques are more likely to lead to the creation of false memories versus those that create conditions where actual events of childhood abuse can be remembered accurately.

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(American Psychological Association, 1995).
• Research how trauma impacts memory. (American Psychological Association, 1995).
• Are some people more susceptible than others to memory suggestion/alteration and why. (American Psychological Association, 1995).

American Psychology Association (2003, August). Learning & Memory. Retrieved July 31, 2009, from
Web site:

Brainerd, C. J., & Reyna, V.F. (1998). When things that were never experienced are easier to “remember” than things that were. Psychological Science, 9, 484-489

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