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Overgeneral Memory and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adults Exposed to Family Violence

Description: Childhood exposure to familial violence increases risk for adult pathology, namely posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Primary PTSD symptoms of hyperarousal and avoidance are implicated in overgeneral memory (OGM) theory in prior research. Individuals with trauma history tend to report OGMs, or non-specific autobiographical memories, perhaps to avoid unpleasant arousal elicited by recalling specific events. OGM, PTSD, depression, and arousal were assessed in adults with and without familial violence history. Arousal was measured via galvanic skin response (GSR) during an autobiographical memory task (AMT), requiring memory recall in response to emotionally-valenced cue words. Familial violence history was linked to higher incidence of PTSD symptoms. Childhood psychological violence was predictive of adult PTSD. Rates of depression, OGM, and arousal did not significantly vary by violence history. Significant gender differences were found relating to type of violence exposure and adult functioning. Research limitations, clinical implications, and future research suggestions are discussed.
Date: May 2010
Creator: Amador, Amy R.
Partner: UNT Libraries