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Br J Clin Psychol. 2010 Sep;49(Pt 3):359-72. doi: 10.1348/014466509X467413. Epub 2009 Aug 28.

Overgeneral autobiographical memory in women: association with childhood abuse and history of depression in a community sample.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Manchester, UK. azza.aglan@manchester.ac.uk



Numerous studies have reported elevated levels of overgeneral autobiographical memory among depressed patients and also among those previously exposed to a traumatic event. No previous study has examined their joint association with overgeneral memory in a community sample, nor examined whether the associations are with both juvenile- and adult-onset depression.


The current study examined the relative importance of exposure to childhood abuse and neglect in overgeneral memory of women with and without a history of major depressive disorder (MDD). Autobiographical memory test together with standardized interviews of childhood experiences and MDD were assessed in a risk-stratified community sample of 103 women aged 25-37.


Overgenerality in memory was associated with recalled childhood sexual abuse (CSA) but not other adversities. A history of CSA was predictive of overgeneral memory bias even in the absence of MDD. Our analyses indicated no significant association between a history of MDD and overgeneral memory in women who reported no CSA. However, overgeneral memory was increased in women who reported CSA and MDD with a significant difference found in relation to positive cues, the highest scores being seen among those with adult rather than juvenile-onset depression.


The findings highlight the significance of CSA in predicting overgeneral memory, differential response in relation to positive and negative cue memories, and point to a specific role in the development of depression for overgeneral memory following CSA.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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