Childhood traumatic events and adolescent overgeneral autobiographical memory: Findings in a UK cohort

Catherine Crane, Jon Heron, David Gunnell, Glyn Lewis, Jonathan Evans, J Mark G Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Overgeneral autobiographical memory has repeatedly been identified as a risk factor for adolescent and adult psychopathology but the factors that cause such over-generality remain unclear. This study examined the association between childhood exposure to traumatic events and early adolescent overgeneral autobiographical memory in a large population sample.

METHODS: Thirteen-year-olds, n = 5,792, participating in an ongoing longitudinal cohort study (ALSPAC) completed a written version of the Autobiographical Memory Test. Performance on this task was examined in relation to experience of traumatic events, using data recorded by caregivers close to the time of exposure.

RESULTS: Results indicated that experiencing a severe event in middle childhood increased the likelihood of an adolescent falling into the lowest quartile for autobiographical memory specificity (retrieving 0 or 1 specific memory) at age 13 by approximately 60%. The association persisted after controlling for a range of potential socio-demographic confounders.

LIMITATIONS: Data on the traumatic event exposures was limited by the relatively restricted range of traumas examined, and the lack of contextual details surrounding both the traumatic event exposures themselves and the severity of children's post-traumatic stress reactions.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest study to date of the association between childhood trauma exposure and overgeneral autobiographical memory in adolescence. Findings suggest a modest association between exposure to traumatic events and later overgeneral autobiographical memory, a psychological variable that has been linked to vulnerability to clinical depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-8
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

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