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Childrens Memory for Stressful Events

Studies concerning children's memory for stressful events can be heu-ristically divided into two general categories based on the type of event being remembered. One set of studies has focused on children's memory for naturally occurring stressful events (see Chapter 6), and the other has concerned children's memory for mildly arousing laboratory-based experiences. Across both types of studies, however, the central question has been the same does stress help or hurt children's memory Unfortunately, findings have not revealed a consistent pattern. Several studies have reported positive associations between stress and memory, both for naturally occurring stressors and arousing laboratory events (e.g., Alexander, Goodman, Schaaf, et al., 2002 Goodman, Hirschman, Hepps, & Rudy, 1991 Quas, Carrick, Alkon, Goldstein, & Boyce, 2006), but others have reported either no direct associations (e.g., Vaandermaas, Hess, & BakerWard, 1993) or negative associations (e.g., Bugental, Blue, Cortez,...

Facing Your Own Bad Attitudes

How do you typically deal with anger now Does it work or not work for you How well are you controlling your temper at work With your partner With friends When you're driving How do you act in front of your kids after a hard, stressful day How do you try to control your stress In the middle of an argument, are you able to stop and say Let's

Appraisals Discrete Emotions and Memory in Adults

Although little research has examined the potentially differing effects of discrete emotions on children's memories, these effects have begun to receive attention in theory and research on adults. Therefore, we now turn to a review of the adult literature to set the stage for generating hypotheses about how discrete emotions may affect children's memory for stressful events. In adults, studies have examined the links between emotion and memory, both when emotions are construed as general arousal and when discrete emotions are considered. A key finding has been that arousal enhances memory for central or emotionally salient information at the expense of peripheral details (e.g., Adolphs, Denburg, & Tranel, 2001 Berntsen, 2002 Burke, Heuer, & Reisberg, 1992 Cahill, Gorski, & Le, 2003 Safer, Christianson, Autry, & Osterlund, 1998 for a review see Reisberg & Heuer, 2004). For instance, in one early study, Christianson and Loftus (1987) presented participants with one of two matched slide...

Making Children Into Competent Witnesses And Esplin

L., Schwartz-Kenney, B. M., & Rudy, L. (1991). Children's testimony about a stressful event Improving children's reports. Journal of Narrative Life History, 1, 69-99. Goodman, G. S., Hirschman, J. E., Hepps, D., & Rudy, L. (1991). Children's memory for stressful events. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 37, 109-158. Goodman, G. S., Quas, J. A., Batterman-Faunce, J. M., Riddlesberger, M. M., & Kuhn, J. (1997). Children's reactions to and memory for a stressful event Influences of age, anatomical dolls, knowledge, and parental attachment. Applied Developmental Sciences, 1, 54-75. Oates, K., & Shrimpton, S. (1991). Children's memories for stressful and non-stressful events. Medicine, Science, and the Law, 31, 4-10.

Discrete Emotions and Appraisal Processes

In general, appraisal theories hold that people continually evaluate the relevance of incoming information for their goals, with ongoing events being appraised along several dimensions that designate the events' relevance to those goals. Emotions are experienced when people perceive that a goal has been attained or obstructed and it becomes necessary for them to revise prior beliefs and construct new plans. The specific emotion experienced depends on the result of this appraisal process. Thus, when a potentially stressful event occurs, the extent to which people experience fear versus anger versus sadness, or some combination thereof, depends not only on objective features of the event but also on whether people feel personally threatened, whether the outcome is certain or uncertain, and whether they believe they have the resources available to overcome obstacles to their goals (e.g., Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003 Frijda, 1986 Levine, 1995, 1996 Roseman, Antoniou, & Jose, 1996 Smith &...

Trauma and Hippocampal Function

Consistent with these claims, manipulations that involve both direct application of cortisol to the brain and inductions of highly stressful events have been shown to result in hippocampal atrophy and learning impairments in nonhuman animals (Gould et al., 1998 Sapolsky & McEwen, 1986). However, empirical support for the argument that trauma itself impairs hippocampal functioning in humans is less conclusive. On the one hand, there is some evidence that exposure to child physical or sexual abuse is related to reduced hippocampal volume in adults (Bremner et al., 1997 Stein, Koverola, Hanna, Torchia, et al., 1997 Vythilingam et al., 2002). For instance, Vythilingam et al. (2002) found bilateral decreases in hippocampal volume in depressed women who reported childhood abuse histories, relative to both depressed nonabused women and healthy, nonabused controls. On the other hand, there is also evidence to suggest that hippocampal atrophy in adults with a history of trauma is more...

Mark l howe gail s goodman and dante cicchetti

Recently, we have seen a steep rise in scientific research concerning the role of stress and trauma in memories for childhood experiences. Psychological science is now, more than ever, grappling with questions about whether traumatic childhood experiences are remembered differently than nontraumatic experiences. Does the fact that one has experienced trauma during childhood affect subsequent memory processing Can children who have been maltreated remember and report those experiences accurately Indeed, we are concerned not just with memory for traumatic and stressful events themselves but also with the long-term effects of these experiences on the course of normal memory development.

Stress and Memory in Children

In summary, the empirical literature suggests that children can have accurate recall of stressful events. These studies, however, have primarily been conducted in normal children. We cannot assume that studies in normal children can be generalized to all children, including abused children. The few studies that were conducted on abused children did not specifically look at those with PTSD or other stress-related mental disorders. Since, as reviewed below, memory and stress responsive systems are altered in patients with stress-related mental disorders, extrapolation of findings from healthy subjects to abuse victims with mental disorders, which is the group of primary interest in the debate about delayed recall of childhood abuse, has limitations.

Eight Steps to Begin Taking Better Care of

Cutting out just one of your weekly activities may make a tremendous difference in restoring balance and reducing stress. And if removing one works well for you, try eliminating two or three. Step Seven Get a Support System. Friends do matter. In addition to everything else they bring to your life, friends can really help in reducing stress and restoring balance. Here are a few suggestions

Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Family Violence

In addition to the clinical implications, an understanding of trauma-related memory problems and their underlying mechanisms is of considerable relevance to the recent public and scientific debate over the impact of traumatic stress on memory and testimony for childhood experiences. Nonetheless, these issues have only recently been explored within the literature on memory development (e.g., see Eisen, Goodman, Davis, & Qin, 1999 Howe, Cicchetti, Toth, & Cerrito, 2004 Howe, Toth, & Cicchetti, 2006). In this chapter, we examine what is known about changes in autobiographical memory development or memory functioning that may be brought about by chronic exposure to stressful events such as abuse. We begin with a discussion of the empirical literature on autobiographical memory disturbances among adults who report having been abused as children, followed by a consideration of the major theoretical explanations for abuse-related impairments. We then present our own research on these issues,...

Cognitive Perspectives

In the second part, Cognitive Perspectives, the authors examine memory for traumatic experiences and whether those experiences result in fundamental changes in children's memory development. In Chapter 4, Greenhoot, Bunnell, Curtis, and Beyer examine autobiographical memory for family violence using longitudinal data. These authors examine what is known about changes in autobiographical memory development and memory functioning that may be brought about by chronic exposure to stressful events such as abuse. Following this review, Greenhoot and colleagues present findings from their own research on these issues, integrating findings from their longitudinal study of children exposed to various forms of domestic violence and using these data to disentangle competing explanations concerning the mechanisms underlying these memory dysfunctions. Chapter 7, by Davis, Quas, and Levine, looks at the role of discrete emotions and children's memory for stressful experiences. The argument here is...

Therapeutic Interventions

Implement strategies to enhance communication, reduce stress, and support one another's parenting efforts. (15, 16) 18. Encourage the parents to participate in programs designed to reduce stress and enhance emotional balance (e.g., reduce workload, keep a journal, build a support network).

Experiential Metaphors

Pairing action with metaphor to achieve change is crucial to work with children (Linden, 2003b, p. 150). Metaphors need not just be in the telling of a tale but may also be in the doing. We have probably all heard it said that experience is the best teacher. You learn to drive a car by having the experience of sitting behind the steering wheel, pressing the pedals, using the blinkers, and coordinating all those necessary eye-hand skills to make the vehicle move successfully and safely. Children may know that their enuresis, aggressive behaviors, or drug use are inappropriate, but until they experience what it feels like to wet the bed at a sleepover at a friend's house, they meet someone stronger and more aggressive, or they are rushed to a hospital because of an unintentional overdose, they may not appreciate the need for change. Similarly, until they experience a dry night, calmness in a stressful situation, or the strength and confidence to say no to drugs, it is difficult for...

Exploring the Role of Discrete Emotions

Scientists and practitioners have long been interested in understanding how children remember emotionally significant, stressful personal experiences. This interest has been motivated by theoretical questions concerning the links between emotion and cognition in development and the nature of children's emerging event memories. Interest also has been motivated by applied questions concerning children's memory for traumatic experiences, the development of trauma-related disorders, and children's eyewitness capabilities (see Chapter 8). Indeed, numerous studies have examined children's memory for a range of stressful events (for reviews see Alexander, Quas, & Goodman, 2002 Fivush & Sales, 2004). Despite this extensive body of literature, few studies have focused on the nature of children's emotional experience during a to-be-remembered event. Instead, studies have largely considered how global indices of distress or arousal relate to children's memory. Yet there are several reasons why...

The Tornado and Its Aftermath

Second, unlike many unfamiliar and stressful events, the tornado also prohibited concurrent interpretation by parents. None of the families who participated in the study had any prior personal experience with a destructive tornado. They certainly were not able to predict the storm's outcome. In addition, many mothers reported that as it became clear that the storm was severe and potentially life threatening, they exhibited negative coping behaviors such as crying, hyperventilating, praying for safety, and so forth. Even for mothers who were less obviously emotional, it was difficult if not impossible to engage in conversation. The families were crouched in small spaces (interior bathrooms) and under large pieces of furniture (desks) as the loud winds of the storm raged around them. Such circumstances virtually precluded the kind of conversations that are known to support children's subsequent recall (Haden, Ornstein, Ecker-man, & Didow, 2001 Tessler & Nelson, 1994). In short, the...

Abuse and Emotional Language in Childhood Memories at Year

Interaction between childhood abuse history and cue type in the model predicting the frequency of emotion terms, F(2, 62) 5.23, p 0.008, controlling for overall narrative length, as well as gender and age. As shown in Figure 4.1, adolescents with no childhood abuse histories used more emotional language in recollections related to negative cues than in memories elicited by positive or neutral cues. It is important to note that analyses of the content of the teens' recollections indicated that almost all of the memories generated in response to the negative cues were negative and highly related to the cues themselves (i.e., involved punishment or conflict), whereas almost none of the memories prompted by positive and neutral cues referred to such events. Thus the pattern observed among nonabused teens is consistent with the findings of other investigations suggesting that emotions may be more salient and relevant in children's recollections of stressful events than nonstressful events...

Mood Disorders

Adult depressive disorders are characterized by having a depressed mood or having a loss of interest or pleasure in life (for more than two weeks) when accompanied by at least three of the following additional symptoms significant weight or appetite loss or gain, difficulty sleeping, serious restlessness, serious fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty in concentrating or thinking, or recurrent thoughts of death or wanting to end one's life. Some families may be more vulnerable to depression than others due to biological differences in their brain hormones. In identical twin studies (when the twins are reared apart), there is up to a 40 chance that a second twin will have depression if the first one does. Crises and serious losses are often a trigger for a major depression for the parent as well as the child. Stressful events in the home can trigger a young child into depression in part because kids tend to disasterize their perspectives and thoughts about the life...


This chapter has reviewed the neurobiology of stress and memory as it applies to traumatized children and questions related to delayed recall of childhood abuse. Studies of the effects of memory have shown that stressful events are remembered differently than normal events. For instance, evidence from flashbulb memory studies showed that emotional events are remembered better than neutral events. Other studies showed that the central features of emotional events are remembered better than peripheral details. Studies in normal children have shown that stressful memories in general are remembered accurately and are typically more resistant to suggestion.

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