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In this prospective longitudinal study, the authors examined the relationship between reduced specificity in autobiographical memory retrieval and the development of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and specific phobia after injury in an assault. Assault survivors (N = 203) completed the Autobiographical Memory Test (J. M. G. Williams & K. Broadbent, 1986) at 2 weeks after the trauma as well as structured clinical interviews at 2 weeks and 6 months. Participants with acute stress disorder or major depression at 2 weeks, but not those with phobia, retrieved fewer specific autobiographical memories than those without the respective disorder. Reduced memory specificity at 2 weeks also predicted subsequent PTSD and major depression at 6 months over and above what could be predicted from initial diagnoses and symptom severity. Moderator analyses showed that low memory specificity predicted later depression in participants with prior episodes of major depression but not in those without prior depression. Mediation analyses suggested that rumination partly mediated and perceived permanent change fully mediated the effects of low memory specificity on posttrauma psychopathology at follow-up.

Original publication




Journal article


J Consult Clin Psychol

Publication Date





231 - 242


Adult, Attention, Child, Child Abuse, Child Abuse, Sexual, Crime Victims, Defense Mechanisms, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Generalization (Psychology), Humans, Life Change Events, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Mental Recall, Middle Aged, Phobic Disorders, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Sex Offenses, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Thinking, Violence, Wounds and Injuries