After the storm: enduring differences in mother-child recollections of traumatic and nontraumatic events

J Exp Child Psychol. 2003 Apr;84(4):286-309. doi: 10.1016/s0022-0965(03)00027-4.


Despite a growing literature on the collaborative reminiscing of mothers and children, little is known about the kinds of things mothers and children discuss as they recollect shared traumatic experiences. Do mother-child recollections of a traumatic event differ from their recollections of more benign events? To address this question, mother-child dyads (N=29) discussed a traumatic event, namely a devastating tornado, and two nontraumatic events (one that preceded and one that followed the tornado). Each dyad discussed all three events 4-months post-tornado and again 6 months later. Whereas conversations about both event types (traumatic and nontraumatic) varied with children's age, dyads' recollections of the tornado were significantly longer, more narratively coherent, and more complete than their recollections of nontraumatic events. These differences largely endured over the 6-month retention interval.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Reproducibility of Results