Dissociation : Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 002-017 : The nature of traumatic memories of childhood abuse

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Title: Dissociation : Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 002-017 : The nature of traumatic memories of childhood abuse
Author: Chu, James A.; Matthews, Julia A.; Frey, Lisa M.; Ganzel, Barbara
Abstract: In recent years, the explosion of reports of childhood abuse has raised questions about the nature of memory for traumatic events. In particular, there has been heated debate concerning amnesia for childhood abuse and the validity and accuracy of recovered memories. This discussion reviews the psychobiology, cognitive research, clinical research, and clinical practice concerning traumatic memory. From experimental investigations and clinical observations, there is ample evidence to support the existence of a variety of memory processes for traumatic events, both conscious and nonconscious. Experimental studies have also shown that memory content is dynamic and subject to suggestion and distortion. There is considerable evidence that traumatic memory may be associated with psychobiologic features and cognitive characteristics that are quite different from ordinary memory. The characteristics of traumatic memory are quite varied and are dependent on the nature of the traumatic events and the age when they were experienced. Clinical evidence and some studies suggest that brief or limited traumatization results in increased clarity or recall (hypermnesia), and a high level of accuracy concerning the central details of the experience. On the other hand, severe and chronic early traumatization may be correlated with denial, dissociation, and amnesia. Clinical studies have supported the existence of amnesia and recovered memories especially for severe and chronic childhood abuse. However, such memories also may be most vulnerable to distortion and errors in recall. Mental health professionals who treat survivors of childhood abuse should be well informed about the complexity of traumatic memory in order to provide a sound and balanced approach to their clinical work.
Description: p. 002-017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/1755
Date: 1996-03


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