A recent study found that false memories persisted as strongly as true memories for a period of a year and a half. The study is reported in full here and is summarized in a Scientific American blog here.
The study subjects were not children, and the false memories the experimenters induced them to form did not concern child abuse. The false memory phenomenon, though, has been the cause of many false allegations of abuse by children.
The study’s finding is consistent with results of the “mousetrap studies” by Stephen Ceci and colleagues. In those studies children were misled to believe they had experienced an injury and a trip to the hospital when they were younger. At the end of the study, when their parents explained to them that they had been tricked by the researchers—that in fact they had never had a finger caught in a mousetrap—many of the children rejected their parents’ correction and continued to insist this had happened to them.