Autobiographical memory specificity in adults 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


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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    • "particularly important in those cases when the client has no memories at all of her or his childhood, as this has been found to be a common indicator of childhood victimization (Crowley 2007; McNally et al. 2006). The following example underscores yet again the need for the worker to maintain a neutral stance and avoid making a priori assumptions about what a client's memories might mean. 2 "
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    ABSTRACT: Adult survivors of childhood trauma are an especially challenging group of clients, given the long-term effects of the victimization and the present day difficulties these individuals face. In this article, trauma-informed practice is explained, incorporating the most recent theoretical and empirical literature. The purpose is to educate and provide support to clinicians who encounter survivors of childhood trauma in a range of settings that are particularly likely to serve this population like addictions, mental health, forensics/corrections, and child welfare. The social worker neither ignores nor dwells exclusively on the past trauma. Rather, trauma-informed practitioners are sensitive to the ways in which the client’s current difficulties can be understood in the context of the past trauma. Further, they validate and normalize the client’s experiences. Trauma-informed practice requires the practitioner to understand how the working alliance, itself, can be used to address the long-term effects of the trauma. Emphasis is placed on helping survivors understand how their past influences the present and on empowering them to manage their present lives more effectively, using core skills of social work practice.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Clinical Social Work Journal
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    • "It is an inverted-Ushaped-curve effect (Metcalfe & Jacobs, 1996; Nadel & Jacobs, 1998; Schooler & Eich, 2000). It has been shown that individuals that underwent severe traumatic experiences during childhood present with overgeneral autobiographical memory (Crane & Duggan, 2009; McNally et al., 2006). On one hand, it is suggested that higher mentalization capacities may help to reduce the disruptive impact of negative affects at the neurological level during the encoding process. "
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    ABSTRACT: Psychoanalysts have suggested that a mentalization process is required for the transformation of drives and affects into mental representations of self and others. Meanwhile, neuroscientists suggest that episodic memory, through autonoetic consciousness, is crucially involved in the elaboration of the Self and subjective experience. This research empirically investigates the relationship between the quality of mentalization and the efficacy of autobiographical recall, and considers childhood trauma and psychopathology as possible related factors. Thirty participants presenting with either high or low mentalization profiles according to the Mental States Rating Systems (MSRS) were submitted to the TEMPau, a semi-structured interview designed to assess the quality of autobiographical recall from several criteria (episodicity, self-perspective and consciousness). Childhood trauma was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). The Symptom Checklist (SCL-90-R) and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Personality Disorders (SCID-II) were used to assess global symptomatology and Axis-II disorders respectively. As expected, levels of mentalization are related to higher levels of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual) and symptomatology (SCL-90-R Global Severity Index). However, contrary to our expectation, better autobiographical memory is associated with poor mentalization profiles, although spontaneity of recall is less efficient in those subjects. No significant relation was found between Axis-II disorders and traits, and other clinical variables.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Psihologija
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
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