Individuals with histories of childhood trauma may adopt a nonspecific memory retrieval strategy to avoid unpleasant and intrusive memories. In a sample of 93 adolescents and adults with or without histories of child sexual abuse (CSA), we tested the hypothesis that nonspecific memory retrieval is related to an individual's general tendency to use avoidant (i.e., distancing) coping as a personal problem-solving or coping strategy, especially in victims of CSA. We also examined age differences and other individual differences (e.g., trauma-related psychopathology) as predictors of nonspecific memories. Distancing coping was significantly associated with less specific autobiographical memory. Younger age, lower vocabulary scores, and non-CSA childhood maltreatment (i.e., physical and emotional abuse) also uniquely predicted less autobiographical memory specificity, whereas trauma-related psychopathology was associated with more specific memory. Implications for the development of autobiographical memory retrieval in the context of coping with childhood maltreatment are discussed.
- child sexual abuse
- overgeneral memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)