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Autobiographical memory functioning is implicated in the course and onset of depression in adults (Williams et al., 2007), and there is preliminary evidence that adolescents with a diagnosis of depression have a bias towards retrieving overgeneral autobiographical memories (Kuyken & Howell, 2006; Kuyken, Howell, & Dalgleish, 2006; Park, Goodyer, & Teasdale, 2002). In two independent studies we asked whether adolescents at risk for depression exhibit autobiographical memory deficits. In the first community study of 179 adolescents, risk was operationalised as higher scores on neuroticism. We found that neuroticism was associated with greater retrieval of categoric memories to negative cue words and that severity of depressive symptoms mediated this relationship. In the second study, groups of formerly depressed (n=15) and never depressed adolescents (n=15) were matched on age, gender, depressive symptoms and verbal fluency, and again compared on their autobiographical memory functioning. Mirroring the findings from Study 1 we found that risk, operationalised here as a history of depression in remission, was associated with greater retrieval of categoric memories to negative cue words. Taken together, these studies show that risk for depression is associated with a greater tendency to retrieve categoric memories to negative cue words and suggest that autobiographical retrieval may be implicated in onset of depression in adolescence.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





241 - 250


Adolescent, Adolescent Behavior, Cues, Depression, Female, Humans, Memory Disorders, Mental Recall, Neurotic Disorders, Personality Inventory, Risk Factors, Self Report, Severity of Illness Index