Autobiographical memory specificity among people with recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse

Linsey Raymaekers, Tom Smeets, Maarten J. V. Peters, Harald Merckelbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals who report to have recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) almost by definition believe that these memories were previously inaccessible for them. We examined whether poor autobiographical memory specificity for all kinds of events (i.e., events not necessarily related to CSA) may underlie such impressions of amnesia. Thus, we examined whether people who report recovered memories of CSA (n=44) would exhibit more difficulty retrieving specific autobiographical memories compared to people who never forgot their abuse experiences (continuous memory group; n=42) and people without a history of abuse (controls; n=26). The standard Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) was administered to these 3 groups along with measures of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology. Controls were significantly better at retrieving specific autobiographical memories relative to individuals with continuous and recovered CSA memories, who did not differ from each other. Thus, reduced autobiographical memory specificity was not particularly pronounced in people with recovered memories of CSA. Poor autobiographical memory specificity is unlikely to explain the impression of amnesia reported by this group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-344
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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