Autobiographical memory impairment among Rohingya refugee people: roles of direct and indirect trauma exposures and PTSD symptom severity
Literature indicates that trauma exposure leads to autobiographical memory (AM) impairment, but the differential effects of direct and indirect trauma on memory remain unclear. We investigated AMs of 100 Rohingya refugees (Meanage = 35.79; SDage = 15.36) recruited from camps in Bangladesh and communities in Malaysia. Each participant retrieved ten memories to word cues and rated to what extent those memories were self-defining on a 5-point scale. They also completed the PTSD-8 scale and a trauma checklist reporting the types of traumatic events they experienced. Results showed that participants with frequent exposure to direct and indirect trauma recalled more traumatic memories. Surprisingly, more direct-trauma memories appeared to be specific than indirect trauma and non-trauma memories. As expected, individuals who scored higher on the PTSD-8 scale recalled more non-specific AMs. Rohingyas in Bangladesh who migrated months before data collection, thus retaining recent trauma experiences , retrieved more non-specific memories than those in Malaysia who migrated years ago. The direct trauma memories of the Malaysian cohort were more self-defining than their counterparts. The participant's ability to recall more direct trauma memories with specificity could be attributed to the repeated recall of those memories to the relevant authorities of the host countries to justify their refugee status.