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Abstract

This study explores the impact of individual difference variables on children's recall and suggestibility when they discuss a stressful personal experience. It was hypothesized that some differences in social factors, including child self concept and parenting style, would be associated with variations in the way children related their experiences. Participants were 24 3- to 7-year-old children who sustained facial lacerations requiring minor medical emergency treatment by a plastic surgeon. The children were interviewed about their surgeries on three occasions: a few days, 6 weeks and 1 year after the experience. A number of individual difference measures were administered to the children and their parents at the time of the first two interviews. The results support the hypothesis that there are individual difference variables that may help to explain some of the variability in children's recall and suggestibility. Younger children with poorer receptive language skills and children of more traditional parents recalled less total information about their surgeries after one year. Child traditionalism, achievement-motivation and social avoidance, as assessed by use of the Eder Self-View Questionnaire, made a difference in suggestibility at the initial interview, but not at subsequent memory assessments. The results are interpreted as suggesting that both the demand characteristics of the interview and the strength of the memory trace are important in understanding the effects of individual difference variables in memory performance. Implications for child testimony are discussed. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.