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Background. Categoric, overgeneral autobiographical memory is more common in depressed adults than controls and predicts persistence of depression. This cross-sectional study investigated whether, compared with non-depressed psychiatric cases and community controls, first episode major depressive disorder (MDD) in adolescents is associated with categoric overgeneral memory retrieval. Methods. Ninety-six clinically referred adolescents (aged 12-17 years) with MDD, 26 non-depressed psychiatric cases and a sample of 33 community controls were recruited. All subjects were assessed using the Kiddie-Schedule for Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders, and completed Williams' cued Autobiographical Memory Test and the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire. Hamilton Depression Rating Scales were completed with MDD subjects, as an index of depression severity. Results. Adolescents with current first episode MDD retrieved more categoric overgeneral memories than controls, but not than non-depressed psychiatric cases. Adolescents in full remission from a recent episode of MDD retrieved more categoric memories to positive cues than controls. Categoric memory in MDD was related to observer-rated and self-reported severity, but not to the pattern of co-morbid diagnoses. There were negative correlations between IQ and categoric memories in both clinical cases and controls. A positive correlation between categoric memory to negative cues and self-reported depressive symptoms was found in clinical cases (but not controls). Conclusions. In adolescents, increased categoric overgeneral memory is associated with, but not specific to first episode MDD. Positive categoric memories are also increased in fully remitted MDD as compared to controls.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychological Medicine

Publication Date





267 - 276