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Exploring the differences in autobiographical memories between younger, middle aged and older people and how depressive symptoms are related to these memories

Klein, Ann-Christin (2018) Exploring the differences in autobiographical memories between younger, middle aged and older people and how depressive symptoms are related to these memories.

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Abstract:Background: Autobiographical memories are important for each individual because they enable human functioning. For this reason, autobiographical memories have to be studied in their totality across the whole life span, while taking into account their content, valence, specificity and integrative meaning as well as their relationship with depressive symptoms. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to systematically examine the differences in younger, middle aged and older people regarding the content, valence, specificity and integrative meaning of their autobiographical memories as well as the memories’ relationship with the experience of depressive symptoms. Method: The data were used from 2302 Dutch participants from the general public who were aged between 16 and 91 (M= 56; SD= 16.8) and who participated in the LISS panel. The participants had to fill in the Self-Defining Memory Task (SDMT; Blagov & Singer, 2004). The peoples’ autobiographical memories were coded for the content, valence, specificity and integrative meaning. Furthermore, the participants were asked to fill in the depression items of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS; Spinhoven et al., 1997). Data-analyses: In order to answer the research question, seven hypotheses were formulated which were tested by means of descriptive statistics, chi-square, ANOVA, Post-hoc and Pearson correlational analysis. Results: 1. The results showed that older people focus more on social relations but younger people do not focus more on career issues. 2. Older people have less positive autobiographical memories than younger people. 3. There is no statistically significant difference between the younger and the elderly when it comes to the specificity of their memories. 4. Older people evaluate life periods more positively, whereas younger peoples’ memories have a more positive meaning for life. 5. People who experience more depressive symptoms, have more negative memories. 6. Depressive symptoms are not related to the specificity of peoples’ autobiographical memories and 7. The more depressive symptoms people experience, the less their autobiographical memories contain integrative meaning. Conclusions: This study showed that the topic of autobiographical memories and its’ relation to age and depressive symptoms is important and needs more attention in todays’ society, especially in order 1) to prevent or decrease the experience of depressive symptoms and 2) to tailor even more future interventions and studies to the needs of the participants. Furthermore,an intervention should be developed that is solely based on peoples’ autobiographical memories. (Depressed) People should learn to positively re-construct their past, leading to less depressive symptoms, more happiness and satisfaction. Finally, an intervention tailored to the needs and age of the user should be developed preventing the development of depressive symptoms by focussing on autobiographical memories.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/76196
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