Remembering genocide: The effects of early life trauma on reminiscence functions among Israeli holocaust survivors

David B. King, Philippe Cappeliez, Sara Carmel, Yaacov G. Bachner, Norm O’Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests that traumatic early life experiences influence the emotional content of personal memories in later life. For the current study, we examined the frequency of various forms of reminiscence among elderly survivors of genocide, specifically Israeli Holocaust survivors. We compared the frequencies of reminiscence functions reported by survivors (n=100) to those reported by older Canadians (n=100) and other older Israelis (n=100), allowing us to distinguish survivor-specific effects from cross-national, Israel-Canada differences. A series of multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVAs) with age and education as covariates were run comparing self-positive, self-negative, and prosocial groupings of reminiscence functions. As hypothesized, male and female survivors reported significantly greater frequencies of self-negative functions compared with both comparison samples. Post hoc analyses indicated survivor-specific effects for each of the 3 self-negative functions: Female survivors reported reminiscing more frequently for boredom reduction and intimacy maintenance; whereas both male and female survivors reminisce more frequently for bitterness revival. Compared with older Canadians and other older Israelis, survivors are more likely to reflect and dwell on bitter memories, likely due to the sheer number and intensity of traumatic early life experiences. We discuss the implications of these findings for trauma survivors in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2015


  • Aging
  • Early life trauma
  • Gender differences
  • Holocaust survivors
  • Reminiscence functions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing (all)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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