Traumatic impact predicts long-term memory for documented child sexual abuse

Psychol Sci. 2005 Jan;16(1):33-40. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.00777.x.


Prospective studies of adults' memories of documented child sexual abuse (CSA) reveal that the majority of individuals remember their victimization. However, the accuracy of these memories has rarely been investigated scientifically. The present study examined predictors of memory accuracy and errors 12 to 21 years after abuse ended for individuals with legal experiences resulting from documented CSA. Severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology was positively associated with memory accuracy. However, individuals nominating CSA as their most traumatic life event exhibited relatively accurate memory regardless of indicators of PTSD. Predictors of memory errors were also identified (e.g., less maternal support). These results indicate that, in addition to understanding the role of traditional cognitive factors, understanding an event's traumatic impact is important for predicting the accuracy of long-term memory for reported CSA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Documentation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires