From refusal to reconciliation: Family relationships after an accusation based on recovered memories

Paul R. McHugh, Harold I. Lief, Pamela P. Freyd, Janet M. Fetkewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


In following families who reported to the False Memory Foundation between 1992 and 2001 that a member had charged them with incest, a survey questionnaire (with a 42% return rate) was sent to some 4,400 families. These data demonstrate that 99% of these accusers were white, 93% were female, 77% were graduates, 86% were in psychotherapy, and 82% accused their father. Such accusations were rare events before 1985 but then grew exponentially in frequency, peaking in the 2-year period from 1991 to 1992, with 579 accusations. Thereafter, such accusations steadily declined so that in 1999 and 2000, only 36 accusations occurred. The accusers can be differentiated in the manner with which they reconciled with the situation: 56% refused all family contact, 36% returned but did not discuss the accusation, and 8% retracted completely. These data give evidence of a time-limited craze of therapy-induced incest accusations that has now dissipated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-531
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004



  • False memories
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Psychotherapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sex abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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