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Adults' Memory for a Maltreatment-Related Childhood Experience: Interview Protocols

NCJ Number
Clinical Psychological Science Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: 2023 Pages: 164-182
Date Published
19 pages

This study assessed the accuracy of memories of adults who had experienced child maltreatment decades ago.


Adults’ claims of decades-old child maltreatment raise questions about how to obtain accurate memories about childhood events. In this study, adults who experienced a documented child maltreatment medical examination when they were 3 to 16 years old (Time 1) were interviewed 2 decades later (Time 2). The adults (N = 115) were randomly assigned to one of three interview-protocol conditions: a standard forensic interview, the cognitive interview (CI) with mental reinstatement, or the CI with mental- and physical-context reinstatement. The CI increased accuracy by dampening reports of potentially schematic but nonexperienced information. Younger age at Time 1 was associated with memories that were less complete but not more inaccurate. A greater number of Time 2 posttraumatic-stress-disorder symptoms predicted both correct and incorrect (omissions and commissions, respectively) answers to specific questions and incorrect answers to misleading questions; commission errors were associated with Time 1 physical-abuse status. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023