Trauma memory characteristics and the development of acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in youth

A. McKinnon (Lead Author), N. Brewer , R. Meiser-Stedman, R.D.V. Nixon

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Background & objectives: The present study addresses gaps in knowledge regarding the association between trauma memory processes and posttraumatic stress responses in youth. Our primary goal was to explore the relative contribution of perceptions of trauma memory quality versus narrative trauma memory characteristics to explain overall adjustment. 
Methods: Children (N = 67) were interviewed within four weeks (T1) of an injury leading to hospital treatment and then again eight weeks later (T2). In each interview, the child told a trauma narrative (which were later coded), and answered the Trauma Memory Quality Questionnaire (Meiser-Stedman, Smith, Yule, & Dalgleish, 2007a), a self-report measure indexing the sensory, fragmented, and disorganised characteristics of trauma memory. They then completed measures of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) symptoms and associated psychopathology at T1 and measures of Posttraumatic Stress (PTS) symptoms and associated psychopathology at T2. 
Results: Self-reported trauma memory characteristics predicted ASD symptoms cross-sectionally at T1 and PTS symptoms prospectively over time. At both time points, self-reported trauma memory characteristics accounted for all of the unique variance in symptoms initially explained by narrative characteristics. A reduction in self-report ratings, but not the hypothesised narrative features (e.g., disorganised or lexical elements of the narrative), significantly predicted a reduction in PTS symptoms over time. 
Limitations: The small sample size and the absence of a within-subjects narrative control were the main limitations of the study. 
Conclusions: These findings underscore the importance of self-reported trauma memory characteristics to the aetiology of PTSD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Early online date22 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Trauma memory
  • Children
  • Acute stress

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