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Delayed traumatic recall in adults: a synthesis with legal, clinical, and forensic recommendations.

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  • 1Oregon Health Sciences University, USA.


Despite considerable consensus on what is known and unknown about delayed traumatic recall in adults, this topic remains one of the most polarized issues within both forensic psychiatry and society as a whole. Competing priorities of values contribute to this polarization. So do often subtle confusions of categories: experiential with substantive realities; clinical with legal priorities and criteria; distinctions between explicit and implicit with declarative and procedural memory; conditioned avoidance with declarative knowledge; and prediction of traumatic sequelae from known traumatic events with postdiction of possible traumatic events from symptoms that may imply prior traumatization. Memories are rendered more vulnerable to falsification through social influence and intrinsic suggestibility-- and probably more so when suggestive input bypasses conscious scrutiny. Legal, clinical, and forensic guidelines are proposed to sort out these complexities, balance conflicting professional duties and priorities, balance protection of children with defending legitimate social structures such as the family, and better use our growing knowledge about the vicissitudes of human memory.

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