Table 1

Bernet's Taxonomy of Mechanisms by Which False Statements may Occur

True allegationEstimated around 90% of the time.
Parental misinterpretation and suggestionThe parent has taken an innocent remark or neutral piece of behavior, inflated it into something worse, and inadvertently induced the child to endorse his or her interpretation (p 904).
Misinterpreted physical conditionA parent who is vindictive or overly anxious or a mental health professional who is misinformed may jump to the conclusion that a child's injury or illness was caused by sexual abuse rather than accepting a more benign explanation (p 905).
Parental delusionThe parent is a severely disturbed, paranoid person. He or she has actively shared a distorted world view with the child, who now shares the same delusion (p 905).
Parental indoctrinationThe parent fabricated the allegation and instructed the child in what to say (p 905).
Interviewer suggestionPrevious interviewers may have inadvertently contaminated the evidence by asking leading or suggestive questions (p 905).
FantasyThe child may have confused fantasy and reality (p 905).
DelusionAlthough rare, delusions about sexual activities may occur in older children and adolescents in the context of a psychotic illness (p 905).
MisinterpretationA misinterpretation may also cause a false belief, but it is derived from something that actually happened in the first place (p 905).
MiscommunicationA false allegation of abuse may arise out of a simple verbal misunderstanding (p 906).
ConfabulationThe concept of confabulation usually implies that the patient fabricates statements or stories in response to questions about events that the person did not actually recall (p 906).
Pseudologica phantasticaCalled fantasy lying and pathological lying … defined as telling false stories without discernible or adequate motive and with such zeal that the subject may become convinced of the truth (p 906).
  • From Reference 60.