Is there a medically, or clinically, recognised diagnosis of ‘False Memory Syndrome’?

The concept was invented in the USA by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF), a group of ‘accused parents’ – mainly fathers – whose adult daughters had confronted them about sexual abuse in childhood.

Having created this fictional concept of ‘false memory’ to defend themselves against these allegations, this group then went on to sell it to the media.

The concept was imported to Britain from the US by Roger Scotford. Scotford set up the UK based False Memory Syndrome Society, in response to being accused independently by two of his adult daughters of sexually abusing them.

The British group also gained enormous coverage and support in the media.

The media’s role has been crucial in enabling the FMSF, and its fellow organisations in other countries, to promote this invented ‘syndrome’ and to introduce it into public debate.

For the media, the ‘syndrome’ provided a new spin on sexual abuse and journalists have played a critical part in giving credence to this pseudo medical/ psychological term, as with the term ‘road rage’.

An American study found that between 1992 and 1994, following the founding of the FMSF, 85% of articles on child sexual abuse in leading magazines focused on false memories and false accusations.

This contrasts with only 7% of articles during 1982-4.

Alongside the invention of ‘FMS’, those who promote it have also introduced the concepts of ‘recovered memory therapy’ and the ‘recovered memory movement’ neither of which exist.

The origins of both can be found in ‘Making Monsters’ (Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters, 1995).

This text links disparate researchers, therapists and writers into spurious unity of purpose and perspective, despite the fact that they are not part of any organisation and express a diversity of views.

The only thing that is common is that they all believe it is possible to FORGET traumatic experiences.

Who coined the term ‘False Memory Syndrome’?

Ralph Underwager, one of the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is credited with having coined the term. In 1993, he gave an interview with the Dutch paedophile magazine, Paedika, in which he was reported as saying that paedophilia could be a responsible choice and that having sex with children could be seen as ‘part of God’s will’.

The other co-founders of the FMSF were Pamela and Peter Freyd, whose adult daughter made accusations of childhood sexual abuse.

The American media gave them almost unquestioning support until their daughter, psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd, felt obliged to speak out publicly, to stop the damage that she felt her parents and their organisation were doing to abuse survivors.

Other early promoters of false memory syndrome in the US were Paul and Shirley Erberle.

In the 1970s, when child pornography laws were less rigid, they edited a magazine called Finger in which there were explicit illustrations of children involved in sexual acts with adults, with features entitled ‘Sexpot at Five’, ‘My First Rape, She Was Only Thirteen’ and ‘Toilet Training’.

Another key figure is Felicity Goodyear-Smith, author of ‘First Do No Harm’ (1993).

Felicity Goodyear-Smith admits to a personal as well as professional involvement in the issue.

Her husband and parents-in-law were imprisoned for sexual abuse offences, having been members of the New Zealand community, CentrePoint, that encouraged sexual intimacy amongst its members, including the children.

Although the adults involved were prosecuted for these acts, including public sex with children, Goodyear-Smith claims that this was simply ‘childhood sexual experimentation’ and quotes studies that claim to show that adult-child sex can be harmless.


Further Reading.

Mental Wellness

Admin’s Note: I personally think that False Memory Syndrome does not exist in the way that it is being portrayed by ill-informed bloggers, and in the mainstream media. I do believe however, that certain memories can be ‘implanted’ by various means, including Hypnosis, in vulnerable people with the intention that they can be manipulated in a particular way. Perhaps to fit in with a story that needs to be disseminated among the wider population for example.

2 thoughts on “CARELESS MEMORIES

  1. Excuse my spelling. It it one of the most debated topics in Psychology. Has been debated since Freud in one form or another, can memories in childhood be artificial with no basis in fact. Is there a danger of an unqualified hypnotherapist leading memories. Can it be caused by association or transfer of original deed.
    These are all topics still heavily debated. Psychology is a constantly evolving and expanding series’of best working theories.
    There has always been a tendency for the media however, to misinterpret or read only the only the interesting part of a thesis.
    Behaviorists still argue, does the ‘mind’ exist or is it merely the combination of cells essentially. Behaviorists if I remember rightly first put forward the idea of Memory’s being artificial after research into how easy it is to control or alter the behaviors of an individuals.
    Following Miligram experiments, it was showed how easy it is, through peer pressure and situation, to get people to ‘ignore’ their usual feelings and to inflict serious pain on others. His results were quite disturbing. So were BF Skinner’s results with conditioning and both show that it is possible to alter the behavior of an individual without resourcing to actual force.
    Following, Miligram, psychology had to obey new laws on codes of conduct. The way to answer this, would be to do a large scale field experiment, with the unaware on similar lines to Milgram. Recent popular shows for television, indicate that it is possible. It is certainly possible to influence a group to comply with the rest of the groups opinion. So why not, create not only an individual’s artificial memory but quite possibly a groups? Technology exists.
    To what extent, it is a large scale problem and a convenient tool for those with power, to dismiss claims – is another debate.

Comments are closed.