Difficulty remembering specific events from the personal past, known as overgeneral autobiographical memory (AM), may be a marker of vulnerability to adolescent depression but little is known about how overgeneral AM arises in this age group. Stressful life events (SLEs) are strongly implicated in the onset of depression and are considered important in theoretical work on AM. We investigated whether exposure to lifetime and recent SLEs contributed to the development of overgeneral AM in a sample of adolescents at high familial risk of depression (n = 257) and examined the effects of gender and memory valence. Whether AM mediated the relationship between SLEs and MDD was also assessed. Exposure to a higher number of lifetime SLEs was associated with an increase in specific AMs. Associations of recent SLEs with AM differed by gender. For girls, more recent SLEs were associated with more overgeneral AMs. For boys, more recent SLEs were associated with fewer overgeneral AMs and more specific AMs. AM did not mediate the relationship between SLEs and subsequent DSM-IV depressive symptom count. Results suggest a complex relationship between AM and SLEs and that overgeneral AM and SLEs may have independent effects on future depression.
- Autobiographical memory
- stressful life events