Making Sense of Traumatic Memories: Memory Qualities and Psychological Symptoms in Emerging Adults with and without Abuse Histories
This study explored the connections between multiple measures of meaning making and psychological adjustment in people with and without histories of abuse. Young adults (n =177), recollected their three most stressful memories and rated them on importance and emotional and sensory qualities. We analysed the narratives for lexical markers of meaning making and explicit references to meaning or meaning-making attempts. There was little overlap between self-reported qualities and narrative content, and they were differentially predictive of psychological symptoms and transient emotional reactions. Consistent with the PTSD literature, more salient self-report memory characteristics (e.g., visceral emotions), and negative emotion and sensation terms predicted more symptoms. The narrative indices provided the best prediction to psychological adjustment, with several meaning indices (e.g., references to positive impact) predicting reduced symptoms, particularly for the Abuse group. Contrary to meaning-making models, resolutions predicted more symptoms, suggesting that aversive feelings during memory telling may trigger on-the-spot sense making to cope with distress.
Bunnell, Sarah; Greenhoot, Andrea Follmer; Sun, Shengkai; and Lindboe, Katherine, "Making Sense of Traumatic Memories: Memory Qualities and Psychological Symptoms in Emerging Adults with and without Abuse Histories" (2013). Psychology Faculty Work. 27.
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