Remembering traumatic memories

Many of the events child witnesses are called upon to remember were unpleasant and frightening at the time. These events will have been experienced in a state of high emotional arousal. The psychological trauma associated with the witnessed event and the emotional state of the child during subsequent recall are both likely to have an influence on a child's capacity to give evidence about the event. Clinical experience suggests that emotional arousal can either enhance or diminish recalled information. For example, extremely traumatic events such as watching a parent being killed can be remembered by child witnesses in a series of highly accurate and detailed visual images that persist in memory over time. (!3> By contrast, some children process potentially overwhelming experiences using a variety of psychological defence mechanisms, which limit the amount and accuracy of material available in explicit memory. Research is needed to understand the implications of psychological trauma and memory for children involved in legal proceedings.

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