Symptomatic Clients and Memories of Childhood Abuse: What the Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse Literature Tells Us

Judith L. Alpert, Laura S. Brown, Christine A. Courtois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The American Psychological Association Working Group on Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse was charged with reviewing relevant literature and making recommendations for future research directions as well as for clinical training and practice. To accomplish this charge, members of the Working Group agreed to review scholarly literature on trauma, child sexual abuse, and memory to provide possible explanations for the four most commonly identified memory recovery scenarios. In each scenario, an adult displays a series of psychological and psychosomatic symptoms before developing what are believed to be memories of having been sexually abused in childhood. One involves the recovery of child-abuse-related memories in the therapy setting; the other three, which involve the return of memory outside of therapy, concern (a) an individual who recalls abuse without therapeutic intervention, (b) an individual who believes that abuse has occurred without clear memory of abuse events per se, and (c) an individual who has no memory for abuse events despite the fact that external corroboration exists for them. Although these examples illustrate the range of memory recovery scenarios now documented in the clinical and research literature, it is of note that none of them necessarily explain how access to conscious cognitive memory was impeded or how such memories eventually became available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-995
Number of pages55
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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