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Stress/suggestibility/forensic psychology: It turns out that individual differences in children’s and parents’ reactions to stressful events may hold one key to unraveling the inconsistent findings on distress and suggestibility, as reviewed by Ceci and Bruck (1993)(1).
Fortunately, since the time of their Psychological Bulletin paper, there have been several research compilations specifically focused on the individual difference factors associated with children’s suggestibility, including about stressful events. See Bruck and Melnyk (2004)(2). From this work, only a few variables emerged as reliable predictors – one of these concerns parental attachment. The association of parental attachment and children’s memory error and suggestibility for stressful information has been one of the most robust findings in the literature (Alexander et al., 2002a(3); Alexander et al., 2002b(4); Goodman, Quas, Batterman-Faunce, Riddlesberger, & Kuhn, 1997(5)).
Stress/attachment theory: to avoid processing emotional stimuli, more avoidant individuals try to mollify discomfort: their strategy for regulating negative emotions is to avoid stimuli that may be a source of agitation and neediness. This results in a potential deficit in encoding and/or rehearsal of stressful information through a process Bowlby termed “defensive exclusion.” (Bowlby 1980)(6).
Intergenerational transmission: Dykas et al. (2011)(7) have posited an intergenerational transmission of avoidance of stress-inducing information. In this way, caregivers’ behavior before, during, and after a stressful event may be associated with the information remembered by children. (Goodman et al. 1997)(5).
1. Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403–439.
2. Bruck, M., & Melnyk, L. (2004). Individual differences in children’s suggestibility: A review and synthesis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 947–996.
3. Alexander, K.W., Goodman, G. S., Schaaf, J. M., Edelstein, R. S., Quas, J. A., & Shaver, P. R. (2002a). The role of attachment and cognitive inhibition in children’s memory and suggestibility for a stressful event. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 83, 262–290.
4. Alexander, K.W., Quas, J. A., & Goodman, G. S. (2002b). Theoretical advances in understanding children’s memory for distressing events: The role of attachment. Developmental Review, 22, 490–519.
5. Goodman, G. S., Quas, J. A., Batterman-Faunce, J. M., Riddlesberger, M. M., & Kuhn, J. (1994). Predictors of accurate and inaccurate memories of traumatic events experienced in childhood. Consciousness and Cognition, 3, 269–294.
6. Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss . Vol. 3: Loss, sadness, and depression. New York: Basic Books.
7. Dykas, M. J., Ehrlich, E., & Cassidy, J. (2011). Links between attachment and social information processing: Examination of intergenerational processes. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 40, 51–94.
Kelly McWilliams, Daniel Bederian-Gardner, Sue D. Hobbs, Sarah Bakanosky, and Gail S. Goodman, „Children’s Eyewitness Memory and Suggestibility. Revisiting Ceci and Bruck’s (1993) Review“, in: Alan M. Slater & Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012