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American Psychological Association

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Professional Psychology: Research and Practice

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A widespread professional and public controversy has recently emerged regarding recovered memories of child sexual abuse, but the prevalence and nature of these memories have received limited empirical examination. This study (N = 553 nonclinical participants) found that very similar proportions of those with histories of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse reported that they had periods without memory of their abuse (21%, 18%, and 18%, respectively). The responses of approximately one half of these participants suggested that they lacked conscious access to their abuse memories, whereas the responses from the others suggested that they had conscious access to their memories. A great deal of variance was found in the reported quality of general childhood memory and the offset of infantile amnesia, and the findings also suggest that it is normative to recover memories of childhood. Each of these variables was also unrelated to the experience of child abuse.


Accepted version. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol. 27, No. 5 (October1996): 438-446. DOI. © 2019 American Psychological Association. Used with permission.

Timothy P. Melchert was affiliated with Texas Tech University at the time of publication.

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