Children’s Memories of a Stressful Dental Procedure: Effects of Stress and Individual Differences on Remembering Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Lee, Seungjin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Two studies were carried out to examine linkages between stress and a range of individual difference factors on children's memory for a potentially stressful event. For Study 1, 63 children, ranging in age from 4 to 10 years, who had visited a private dental clinic and undergone a minor operative procedure were evaluated. The children's stress levels during the dental procedures were assessed by the dentist and the researchers. The children's memory was assessed immediately after the dental procedure. Overall, higher stress levels were associated with lower levels of memory. However, several individual characteristics specific to each child--previous negative dental experiences, advanced parental preparation, and stress coping strategies-- were associated with variations in recall performance. For Study 2, 85 children, ranging in age from 4 to 9 years, visited the same private dental clinic as in Study 1. Children's biological stress reactivity during the dental procedure was recorded. Their memories of the event were assessed by the same protocol used in study 1, but an additional, one-week-delayed assessment was conducted to examine the memory retention. The findings in Study 2 were consistent with those of Study 1, indicating that overall higher stress levels during an event were associated negatively with children's remembering. In addition, behavioral responses to stress were significantly associated with other anxiety variables and children's delayed recall whereas stress reactivity as measured physiologically had little relation with children's remembering. As in Study 1, individual difference factors such as previous negative dental experiences, advanced parental preparation, and stress coping strategies were associated with variations in recall performance. Based on the absence of relation between the biological measures of stress and children's memory and the presence of considerable variation in individual difference variables on remembering of a stressful event, the relation between stress and children's memory of a stressful event might be mediated in part by what children do to manage the stress they experience, rather than the level of stress per se. Finally, the implications of findings for understanding theoretical, clinical, and forensic issues in psychology are discussed.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology."
  • Ornstein, Peter
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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