False confessions and false memories: a model for understanding retractors' experiences

James Ost, Alan Costall, Ray Bull

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The present paper examines reports by 'retractors' (i.e. adults who have retracted their earlier claims of childhood abuse) to explore suggestions in the literature of possible similarities between their experiences and the experiences of individuals who falsely confess to criminal acts. Despite concerns about the reliability of retractors' reports, these individuals provide valuable insight into the processes involved in making and then repudiating claims of abuse. The present analysis revealed similarities between the contexts in which retractors came to report that they were sexually abused and the contexts in which false confessions arise. Although caution must be taken in generalizing from these findings, these similarities indicate that models of false confession could serve as a useful basis for conceptualizing the processes involved in the development of claims of childhood sexual abuse that are subsequently retracted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-579
Number of pages31
JournalThe Journal of Forensic Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001


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