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Autobiographical memory specificity in child sexual abuse victims

  • Christin M. Ogle (a1), Stephanie D. Block (a2), Latonya S. Harris (a3), Gail S. Goodman (a3), Annarheen Pineda (a4), Susan Timmer (a3), Anthony Urquiza (a3) and Karen J. Saywitz (a5)...


The present study examined the specificity of autobiographical memory in adolescents and adults with versus without child sexual abuse (CSA) histories. Eighty-five participants, approximately half of whom per age group had experienced CSA, were tested on the Autobiographical Memory Interview. Individual difference measures, including those for trauma-related psychopathology, were also administered. Findings revealed developmental differences in the relation between autobiographical memory specificity and CSA. Even with depression statistically controlled, reduced memory specificity in CSA victims relative to controls was observed among adolescents but not among adults. A higher number of posttraumatic stress disorder criteria met predicted more specific childhood memories in participants who reported CSA as their most traumatic life event. These findings contribute to the scientific understanding of childhood trauma and autobiographical memory functioning and underscore the importance of considering the role of age and degree of traumatization within the study of autobiographical memory.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Christin M. Ogle, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Box 90086, Durham, NC 27708; E-mail:; or Gail S. Goodman, Department of Psychology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; E-mail:


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