Introduction creating visual images as well as


The controversies associated with recovered repressed memories have elicited a lot debate. This has generated increased research on the said topic. This essay seeks to critically evaluate Susan Penfold’s article, The Repressed Memory Controversy: Is There a Middle Ground, a peer reviewed article. The article seeks to identify the main issues surrounding the debate on the reliability of long-hidden recollections of childhood sexual abuse. The article explores this debate by exploring major arguments developed, hypotheses created either from medical and social science disciplines.

There have been claims that reports that recovered memories of young children who have in the past been victims of sexual abuse were as a result of repression, self-induced hypnotic trance, false memory syndrome, motivated feeling as well as other unethical methods that are employed by psychologists that are not as a result of the recovery.

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False memory syndrome

The article begins on the onset of research findings those victims of supposed childhood abuse to forget about their ordeal they went through. The syndrome is characterized by the effort of psychotherapists who are criticized as being overzealous, poorly trained and eager to produce results who single-handedly seek to persuade or coerce their patients who have no memories of any form of childhood abuse to remember the alleged abuse. The article is premised on the research by Elizabeth Loftus, a memory researcher and Richard Ofshe, a sociologist who reveal a recovered memory movement by the incompetent psychotherapists who have a practice of using coercion to entice their clients to recall past traumatic experiences. This is achieved by employing methods such as creating visual images as well as hypnosis with the belief that it is the getaway to memory recovery.

This has the effect of making the client believing that they have a history of abuse in their childhood when in reality this is not true.

Reaction to the debate

Response to the false memory debate has seen the field of physical practitioners gets polarized on the argument that memories can be repressed or fabricated (Penfold, 1996, p.651). Frankel F.H., a psychotherapist and an expert in his field, notes that a number of terms used such as amnesia, forgetting, and repression among others are used either interchangeably or as pseudonyms.

Research has shown that a number of factors interfere with remembering things. A number of factors affect the recollection of events such as the initial recording of the event, storing such information and the recalling of such a memory. Reasons for the increase of memories of abuse cannot be exhaustively explained or to explain whether repressed memories can lead to symptoms in an individual.


The core of the debate on repressed memories of sexual abuse during an individual’s childhood that have long been forgotten and the suddenly recovered leads to the conclusion that both real, genuine memories from one’s childhood as well as fabricated memories exist. The article notes that only further research in the field will provide clear evidence and settle the debate. This debate has proved that practicing physicians need to keep an open mind when approaching patients with such sensitive issues and handle such cases with patience as well as understanding.

There is evidence of the existence of both repressed and fabricated memories but more research is required so that professionals can improve their competency in the field. However, cases of fabricated memory should not be used to mean that true memory recovery is not possible or does not exist and victims of child abuse should not shy away from seeking therapy.


Penfold, P.

S. (1996). The Repressed Memory Controversy: Is There Middle Ground? British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital.

Vancouver: Canadian Medical Association.


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