The relationship between memories of childhood experiences (e.g., adverse parenting) and adult depression often found raises questions of interpretation. On the one hand, both laboratory studies and clinicians' experiences suggest that subjects in a depressed mood frequently show a negative bias in perceptions and memories. Negative childhood memories in depressed persons might, therefore, be interpreted as epiphenomena of depressed mood instead of etiological factors. On the other hand, memories of childhood experiences seem remarkably stable across changes in depressed mood, especially when memories are elicited by means of standardized questionnaires. In the mood and memory literature several explanations for this stability are offered. For one thing, highly structured cues to elicit memories (such as in questionnaires) are hypothesized to be less susceptible to mood bias than unstructured memory cues (such as in free recall procedures). On the other hand, resource allocation theorists suggest that childhood memories, being well established and rehearsed, are relatively impervious to mood bias no matter how they are elicited. In this study we examined whether different methods of eliciting childhood memories (i.e., free recall and questionnaire-cued) are differentially susceptible to mood bias. To this aim, we used a mood induction procedure to induce depressed, neutral, and elated mood and assessed childhood memories both before and after the mood induction using both questionnaires and free recall to elicit memories. Results suggested that memories elicited by means of free recall as well as by means of questionnaire-cued recall were susceptible to depressed and elated mood bias. The implications for research addressing the link between childhood experiences and depression are discussed.
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Gerlsma, C., Mosterman, I., Buwalda, S. et al. Mood and memories of parental rearing styles: A comparison of mood effects on questionnaire-cued and free recall of autobiographical memories. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 14, 343–361 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00960779
- mood effects
- childhood memories
- parental rearing styles
- recall methods