British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 41 Issue 2 (June 2002), Pages 111-220

Autobiographical memory and emotion in a non‐clinical sample of women with and without a reported history of childhood sexual abuse (pages 129-141)

Objectives: This study focused on the relationship between reported CSA history, subsequent autobiographical memory retrieval, intrusive and dysfunctional thoughts, and mood in a non‐clinical sample. The main hypothesis was that specificity in autobiographical memory recall would differentiate between women with a reported history of CSA and those without, and that this finding would be independent of current mood.

Design: A between‐group comparison of women (female undergraduates) with and without a reported history of CSA. Within group correlations were also examined for the reported CSA group.

Method: Participants were 79 female students, of whom 22 (28%) reported a history of CSA. All participants completed questionnaires requesting information on a history of CSA, a questionnaire version of the autobiographical memory test, the profile of mood states, the dysfunctional attitude scale, and the impact of events scale.

Results: The reported CSA group gave significantly fewer specific autobiographical memories, were significantly more anxious, depressed and angry, and held more dysfunctional beliefs than the comparison group. However, specificity of memory was not correlated with the degree of this mood disturbance or with the impact of event scale or extent of dysfunctional beliefs.

Conclusions: Models of the long‐term effects of CSA should incorporate the effects CSA may have on subsequent retrieval for memory of non‐abuse events. To improve treatment outcome, clinicians may have to directly address these deficits in therapy.

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