Autobiographical memory, emotional intelligence, emotion focusing and depression in children

Electronic versions


  • Nikola Westwell


The link between overgeneral autobiographical memory (ANI) and depression has been well established in adults and in limited research on adolescents. Major theories propose that overgeneral AM is a consequence of childhood trauma, serving to minimise negative affect associated with aversive memories. The body of research in the area tends to support the premise that overgeneral ANI function as a short-term protective factor against memories of distressing experiences. However, in tile longer term, it may interact with other mechanisms such as rumination, social problem solving and working memory capacity, resulting in Vulnerability to depression. Understanding the developmental course of overgeneral AM in people Suffering from depression is important in the design and implementation of interventions for both children and adults suffering with depressed mood. This large-scale research project reviewed and critically evaluated studies on autobiographical memory across the lifespan in the context of the models of AM such as the Affect Regulation Hypothesis and Working Memory Capacity theories of Williams (1996). The aim of the current study was to explore the relationships between measures of AM, depressed mood, emotional intelligence and a new paradigm known as emotion focusing, in a non-clinical sample of 58 primary school age children. No statistically significant relationships were found between the constructs and children categorised as high and low in depression did not differ significantly on any of the measures suggesting that overgeneral AM may not be associated with depression in this age group. An analysis of effect sizes indicated that more depressed children may become increasingly reliant on an overgeneral retrieval style with age. This finding is potentially clinically meaningful and worthy of discussion. Limitations of the research and directions for future investigation, particularly those including longitudinal designs, are discussed. In addition, the theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Bangor University
  • Richard Hastings (Supervisor)
Award dateJan 2006