Autobiographical memory specificity in adults reporting repressed, recovered, or continuous memories of childhood sexual abuse

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Cognition and Emotion (Impact Factor: 2.52). 01/1970; 20(3-4):527-535. DOI: 10.1080/02699930500342779

ABSTRACT Some psychotherapists believe that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are characterised by memory deficits for their childhood. Using the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT), we asked nonabused control participants and participants who reported either continuous, recovered, or repressed memories of CSA to retrieve a specific personal memory in response to either positive or negative cue words from either childhood or adolescence/adulthood. The results indicated that participants who believed they harboured repressed memories of abuse tended to exhibit the greatest difficulty retrieving specific memories from their childhood. Neither posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nor major depression was related to diminished memory specificity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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    • "According to the affect-gating hypothesis (Williams, Stiles, & Shapiro, 1999) persons at an early stage of development may adopt a less specific memory style after exposure to adverse life events, which is negatively reinforced in that it 'protects' one from painful concrete personal memories. In accordance with this presupposition, McNally et al. (2006) tested people without a history of abuse and people with continuous memories, recovered memories or repressed memories of CSA. The authors found some indications that the repressed group tended to experience the greatest difficulty in retrieving specific memories. "
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of decreasing, consistent and increasing reports of sexual and physical abuse after 12 months of long-term psychological treatment of personality disorders, to investigate demographic and clinical characteristics predictive of inconsistency of reporting abuse, and to explore whether autobiographical memory may account for this inconsistency. In 229 clinical participants with an SCID II diagnosed personality disorder, 180 (78.6%) reported the same instances of invasive sexual and/or physical abuse on a trauma questionnaire (SPAQ) at baseline and follow-up, 25 (10.9%) decreased and 24 (10.4%) increased their abuse reports. Consistency of reporting abuse did not differ between schema-focused therapy, clarification-oriented psychotherapy and treatment-as-usual. Current depressive episode (SCID-I) and decreased capacity to produce specific negative memories on the Autobiographical Memory Test were characteristic of decreasing abuse reporters, while increasing abuse reporters showed higher levels of Cluster A personality pathology (in particular schizotypal traits) on the Assessment of DSM-IV Personality Disorders (ADP-IV). These results suggest that even in treatment procedures directed at exploring someone's personal past with abuse-related imagery consistency of reporting abuse is quite stable. However, certain clinical characteristics may make some persons more likely to change their trauma reports. Moreover, reduced negative memory specificity may represent an avoidant strategy associated with no longer reporting instances of abuse.
    Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 12/2012; 43 Suppl 1:S43-50. DOI:10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.02.005 · 2.23 Impact Factor
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    • "To our knowledge, no studies describing reduced autobiographical memory specificity effects in traumatized samples have controlled for both past and current clinical depression. There are some studies that have controlled for current major depressive disorder (MDD; e.g., McNally et al., 2006; Schönfeld & Ehlers, 2006), but in these studies past MDD was not taken into account. As MDD is a common outcome following trauma (e.g., Shalev et al., 1998), this is not a trivial problem with the existing data in the literature, as it means that in all of the studies to date, reporting reduced specificity associated with trauma, history of MDD and trauma are confounded. "
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    ABSTRACT: Traumatized samples have relative difficulty in generating specific autobiographical memories on a cue word task, compared to nonexposed controls. Simultaneously, trauma is associated with highly specific intrusive trauma memories in day-to-day life. Possibly, day-to-day intrusions and memories generated to cue words rely on different retrieval processes, with the former dependent on close associations between retrieval cues and specific memory representations (direct retrieval), and the latter on iterative retrieval cycles through a hierarchical memory system (generative retrieval). This study investigated this distinction using two versions of the cue word task, designed to promote generative and direct retrieval, respectively, in participants with or without a history of child sexual abuse (CSA). The data demonstrated that CSA participants were less specific than nonabused controls to generative retrieval cues, but this difference disappeared with direct retrieval cues. This interaction was stronger in CSA participants with relatively greater posttraumatic stress and remained significant when participants with past or current major depressive disorder were excluded and also when only those participants with corroborated CSA were included.
    Journal of Abnormal Psychology 06/2008; 117(2):444-53. DOI:10.1037/0021-843X.117.2.444 · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    • "Further research has attempted to clarify the link with trauma and overgeneralised autobiographical memory retrieval, although the findings are not equivocal. Some evidence suggests that overgeneralised retrieval is associated with trauma (e.g., de Decker, Hermans, Raes, & Eelen, 2003; Edwards, Fivush, Anda, Felitti, & Nordenberg, 2001; Hermans et al., 2004; McNally et al., 2006; Meesters, Merckelbach, Muris, & Wesel, 2000), whereas others report no association (e.g., Johnson, Greenhoot, Glisky, & McCloskey, 2005; Wessel et al., 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Memory for public and autobiographical events was investigated in people diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and a group of healthy controls. The aim was to determine whether the overgeneral memory effect emerged in clinical conditions other than depression and in memory domains other than autobiographical. 36 participants, 12 in each group, were administered four measures comprising the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT), the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI), and a Public Events Memory Test; the latter developed by the authors and based on the AMT. A pattern of overgeneral autobiographical memory retrieval was found in both clinical groups. A similar pattern in retrieval of public events was also found in people diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia, indicating that overgeneral memory was characteristic of neither clinical condition nor was it associated with a particular memory domain. The findings suggest that overgeneral memory retrieval may represent a fundamental flaw in memory that arises when resources are limited. These findings are discussed in light of current theories of overgeneral memory retrieval.
    Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 08/2007; 12(4):301-21. DOI:10.1080/13546800601066142 · 2.18 Impact Factor
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