Objective. Numerous studies have reported elevated levels of overgeneral autobiographical memory among depressed patients and also among those previously exposed to a traumatic event. No previous study has examined their joint association with overgeneral memory in a community sample, nor examined whether the associations are with both juvenile- and adult-onset depression.

Methods. The current study examined the relative importance of exposure to childhood abuse and neglect in overgeneral memory of women with and without a history of major depressive disorder (MDD). Autobiographical memory test together with standardized interviews of childhood experiences and MDD were assessed in a risk-stratified community sample of 103 women aged 25–37.

Results. Overgenerality in memory was associated with recalled childhood sexual abuse (CSA) but not other adversities. A history of CSA was predictive of overgeneral memory bias even in the absence of MDD. Our analyses indicated no significant association between a history of MDD and overgeneral memory in women who reported no CSA. However, overgeneral memory was increased in women who reported CSA and MDD with a significant difference found in relation to positive cues, the highest scores being seen among those with adult rather than juvenile-onset depression.

Conclusions. The findings highlight the significance of CSA in predicting overgeneral memory, differential response in relation to positive and negative cue memories, and point to a specific role in the development of depression for overgeneral memory following CSA.