Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 229-236

First online:

Children's Memory for Trauma and Positive Experiences

  • Lucy BerlinerAffiliated withUniversity of Washington Email author 
  • , Ira HymanAffiliated withWestern Washington University
  • , Ayanna ThomasAffiliated withWashington University
  • , Monica FitzgeraldAffiliated withUniversity of Georgia

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Characteristics of children's memory for a trauma and for a positive event were compared and relationships of memory characteristics to trauma symptoms examined in 30 children who experienced a traumatic event. Results revealed that memories for trauma tended to have less sensory detail and coherence, yet have more meaning and impact than did memories for positive experiences. Sexual traumas, offender relationship, and perceived life threat were associated with memory characteristics. Few relationships between memory characteristics and trauma symptoms were found. Therapist ratings of child memory characteristics were correlated with some child trauma memory characteristic reports. These results are consistent with other studies. Possible explanations include divided attention during the traumatic event and cognitive avoidance occurring after the event.

children's memory traumatic memory memory characteristics