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J Abnorm Psychol. 2007 Nov;116(4):837-41.

Impaired specific autobiographical memory as a risk factor for posttraumatic stress after trauma.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


This study tested the proposal that impaired retrieval of specific autobiographical memories is a risk factor for psychological disturbance after trauma exposure. Trainee firefighters (N = 60) were assessed during training (before trauma exposure) on the Autobiographical Memory Test, Clinician Administered PTSD Scale, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), and Traumatic Events Questionnaire. Participants were reassessed 4 years later (N = 46) on the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale and BDI-II. All participants had been exposed to multiple traumatic events, and 15% met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. Impaired retrieval of specific memories in response to positive cues prior to trauma exposure significantly predicted posttraumatic stress severity after trauma exposure. These findings provide initial evidence that impaired specific retrieval of memories may be a risk factor for posttraumatic stress.

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