Maltreated Children's Memory of Stressful Removals from Their Biological Parents



The effects of stress on memory were examined through a study of 33 3 to 12-year-old maltreated children removed from their biological parents by the Child Protective Services because of an emergency (acute) or normal (planned) care order. Children's stress levels were rated by a researcher present during the removal and children's memory of the removal investigated at a later time. The type of removal significantly predicted children's level of stress. ‘Acute removal’ children remembered more from high-stress phases of the removal than the ‘planned removal’ children. All children had more accurate memories of the low-stress phases. Details remembered were rated as central or peripheral; more central information was recalled than peripheral information. The ‘acute removal’ children recalled more peripheral information from the high-stress phases of the removal than the low-stress phases, a difference, which was not present for the ‘planned removal’ children. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.