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A review of overgeneral memory in child psychopathology

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Abstract

Objectives

Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) refers to the impaired retrieval of specific events from autobiographical memory. This review examined OGM in children and adolescents to answer three main questions. First, do children demonstrate OGM? Second, how does the experience of OGM relate to childhood trauma and associated psychopathology? Third, is the CaR-FA-X model (Williams et al., 2007) able to explain OGM in child psychopathology once developmental issues have been considered?

Method

Articles were identified in PsycINFO and PubMed searches using the terms overgeneral memory AND children, autobiographical memory specificity AND children, and autobiographical memory AND children. The authors reviewed 21 articles that examined OGM in young people aged 7–18 years. Effect sizes were calculated for each study.

Results

The review demonstrated consistent support for a relationship with trauma exposure and depression symptoms in childhood. Furthermore, OGM was found to predict depression symptoms. Limited support was provided for the efficacy of the CaR-FA-X model in young people.

Conclusions

Future research will need to examine the influence of trauma characteristics on OGM development, along with the relationship of OGM to depression prognosis. Further investigation of the CaR-FA-X model is required and developmental aspects will need to be taken into account.

Practitioner points

  • Overgeneral memory is evident in trauma-exposed children.
  • Overgeneral memory offers a potential intervention point for depression.
  • Further theoretical understanding of overgeneral memory is needed.
  • The effects of trauma characteristics on overgeneral memory are unexplored.
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