The role of overgeneral autobiographical memory in the development of adult depression following childhood trauma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • Elizabeth Burnside
  • Mike Startup
  • Marie Byatt
  • Lynn Rollinson
  • Jonathan Hill


Objective. Overgeneral autobiographical memory (AM) has been associated with episodes of clinical depression in adults and also with reported experience of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). This study investigated whether AM has a role in the development of adult depression in survivors of CSA and whether it is related to circumstances of CSA. Method. A community sample of women who reported a history of CSA (N = 41) completed the autobiographical memory test and were interviewed about any adult episodes of depression using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia - Lifetime. Results. Women who reported episodes of depression recalled fewer categoric memories in response to cue words than those who reported no episodes of depression. Correlations indicated that the number of categoric memories recalled for all cue words was associated with early abuse and greater duration of abuse. Conclusions. Relationships between AM and the age, and duration of abuse are consistent with previous findings of a relationship between CSA and AM. Categoric AM appears to serve as a defence against distressing memories. However, this suggestion needs to be tested with prospective studies showing whether AM recall style becomes more specific as a result of an episode of depression. © 2004 The British Psychological Society.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-376
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004