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Stress at encoding, context at retrieval, and children’s narrative content


Research concerning the relations between stress and children's memory has been primarily correlational and focused on memory volume and accuracy. In the current study, we experimentally manipulated 7- and 8-year-olds' and 12- to 14-year-olds' experienced stress during a to-be-remembered event to examine the effects of stress on the content of their memory. We further manipulated the degree of interviewer support at retrieval to determine whether it moderated the effects of stress at encoding on memory. Children's age, gender, stress at encoding, and interviewer support all influenced the type of information included in their narrative reports. Most notably, across ages, children who experienced a more stressful event but were questioned in a supportive manner provided the largest ratio of terms representing internal states such as those about cognitions and emotions. Results suggest that how children process past events may be influenced by both the nature of the event itself and the context within which it is recalled.

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