This thesis serves as a pre-study of the research project Children s Memory for Traumatic Separations: An investigation of children removed from home by the Child Protective Services . The author has contributed in all steps of the study, such as in the original planning, in data collection, and in training, coding, and reliability testing of all dependent measures employed. The author has conducted the child interviews and testing.
There is an ongoing debate whether memory for traumatic events can be lost, or if there are unique influences such as dissociation (e.g., the disruption of normal integration of memories, perceptions, and identity into a coherent sense of self) superseding general memory mechanisms (e.g., age differences, forgetting, and memory illusion). The impact of maltreatment-related sequel on basic memory processes is unsettled. Previous studies of trauma and memory have primarily been field research projects. Very few, if any, reports exists that both hold a high ecological validity and employ experimental demands, which enables full control of the situation to be studied. The present thesis is therefore a pioneer work, as it investigates real life phenomenon employing an experimental design.
To study memory for real life traumatic events within a cognitive developmental approach, a removal situation was chosen as the event to be encoded and later recalled, and 12 maltreated children aged 3 to 12 years old were recruited. At the day of removal a researcher observed and registered the child s and the parents reactions, and the placement procedure. The children accomplished a structured memory interview one week and three months after the removal day, Child Behavioral Checklist and Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children were filled out, and cognitive tests were taken. Biological parents and the CPS caseworker were interviewed, and case report information was registered.
Results showed that degree of stress experienced during removal related to accuracy in the children s memory. Mixed results were found regarding age and the amount and accuracy of information given, and between memory and PTS symptoms. Due to dissociation, a slightly negative impact on memory was found. Preliminary results are discussed in light of previous research on maltreated children s memory for trauma and corresponding theories.