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ERIC Number: EJ843714
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 13
ISSN: ISSN-1053-8712
Drawing Conclusions: Confusion between Data and Theory in the Traumatic Memory Debate
Silberg, Joyanna
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, v12 n2 p123-128 2003
This paper examines one of the chief problems in the ongoing debate about the nature and prevalence of the various memory mechanisms that may operate in determining whether a victim/survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) will have delayed recall of the victimization. One of the key problems in the debate about delayed or suppressed memory of CSA is that debaters have often confused two distinct and separate scientific processes, i.e., reporting on observational data and generating hypotheses to explain the observations. The observation that some people subjectively report no access to the memory of CSA is simply an observation, documented repeatedly in a variety of clinical reports, case reports, and research studies. This observation is open to a variety of scientific interpretations. Although researchers have not yet settled on what theory best explains the phenomenon, this does not invalidate the observations. This problem in the debate is evident in the most recent prospective study of the issue by Goodman et al. (2003). Rather than review the abundant research that clearly shows the existence of cases in which documented CSA was forgotten, Goodman et al. reviewed only two retrospective studies and two prospective studies. The researchers construct a "straw man" version of theories of traumatic amnesia and imply that disproving the "straw man" theory could invalidate the existence of documented cases of traumatic amnesia. In observing that relatively few participants in their research forgot their CSA, they go beyond their data in attempting to discount some of the theories of obstructed memory mechanisms under trauma. The research by no means undermines all possible theories of memory loss or obstruction under the influence of trauma. A true cognitive study of the phenomenon of forgetting traumatic events would require a larger sample to document those cases that are true examples of subjectively experienced forgetting, and variables associated with various competing theories would require separation. It is most likely that a unique combination of specific circumstances combine in complex ways to obstruct memory mechanisms.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A