Retrieved memories of childhood sexual abuse

Br J Med Psychol. 2000 Mar;73 ( Pt 1):1-13. doi: 10.1348/000711200160246.


About a century ago Freud sparked off a bitter controversy concerning alleged recollections of childhood sexual abuse: Were they fact or fiction? Recently this debate has been revived with intensity, with some professionals stubbornly taking up entrenched and polarized positions. On the one side there are those who continue to deny the veracity of all 'recovered memories', and thus also of the implicated psychological defences of repression and dissociation. At the other extreme are those therapists who assume that particular symptoms invariably imply sexual abuse. There is a growing corpus of anecdotal, clinical and, more recently, research evidence supporting the contention that childhood sexual abuse, like all other trauma, can be forgotten for days, and even for many years, before being recalled. However, the reconstruction of these memories is a complex and, at times, a somewhat fallible process.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Models, Psychological
  • Repression, Psychology*