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J Trauma Dissociation. 2012;13(3):291-310. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2011.641497.

Trauma severity and defensive emotion-regulation reactions as predictors of forgetting childhood trauma.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois 60607-7137, USA.


Using a retrospective survey, we studied a sample of 1,679 college women to determine whether reports of prior forgetting of childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and other traumas could be explained by trauma severity and individual differences in the use of defensive emotion-regulation reactions (i.e., repressive coping, dissociation, and fantasy proneness). Among victims of physical abuse (but not sexual abuse or other types of trauma), those who experienced severe abuse and used defensive reactions were sometimes more likely to report temporary forgetting of abuse but other times less likely to report forgetting. We also found unanticipated main effects of trauma severity on temporary forgetting. Our results provide an understanding of victims' experiences of forgetting by demonstrating the importance of considering unique effects of trauma type, different aspects of trauma severity, and victims' defensive reactions to trauma.

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