The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade


As adults, we all try to remember certain memories from when we were young but somehow can’t manage to remember what happened.  As we discussed in class a few weeks ago, we call this phenomenon childhood amnesia.  After discussing childhood amnesia and false memories in class, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued to find out more information on childhood amnesia.  I came across this article, which is a year old, but I thought it was still appropriate because it discusses childhood amnesia, and answered some questions I had regarding childhood amnesia.  As we have discussed in class, we know that we have little memory before the age of 4 years old and that on average, the first memory we have is around 3 and a half years old.  This article discusses when childhood amnesia starts, which memories from our childhood persist, and how the power of the memory can determine whether we remember or forget that childhood memory. 

This article discusses multiple research done related to childhood amnesia.  Specifically, the article discusses research in relation to when childhood amnesia starts, which childhood memories persist, and the power of memory.  In terms of research done on when childhood amnesia starts, the article discussed research done to see what happened to memories of children over time.  They recorded 3-year olds talking to their parents about a specific event that happened.  A few years later, researched checked back with the children to see if they remembered the events.  Children who were 7 recalled more than 60% of the events while children who were 8 or 9 only recalled less than 40% of the events.  In terms of which childhood memories persist, the article discussed research done by Carole Peterson who studied children who were hospitalized in emergency rooms as young as 2 years old for injuries.  Because these memories were emotional and significant events, Peterson concluded that children had good memory of those events, even up to 10 years later.  Lastly, in terms of the power of the memory, the article discussed how researchers found that parents play a big role in what children remember.  Specifically, they found that, parents who help shape, structure, and context to a memory, the memory is less likely to fade.

With the many different research done on childhood amnesia, we can figure out specific ways to make memories from our childhood stronger.  The article discusses the findings from research which relates to how we can make our childhood memory stronger.  The researchers discussed reasons as to why our childhood memories from such a young age aren’t always remembered.  Specifically, they concluded that because our brain systems are so immature at such a young age, they may not be working as efficiently as they could, especially in our older, adult years.  The article discussed how childhood memories are more likely to survive if those memories involve a lot of emotion.  For example, we’re more likely to remember events that involved us breaking a bone rather than a memory on what we did for our 4th birthday.  Lastly, our childhood memory is likely to survive if our parents help us make the power of that memory stronger.  For example, if parents help us shape and structure and add context to the memory, we’re more likely to remember it when we’re adults.  All this information and research are all helpful information in trying to understand childhood amnesia.

When I came across this article, I had a lot of questions in which I hope the article would answer.  After I had read the article, I did learn more information about childhood amnesia, on top of what we’ve learned in class.  I think that the article did a wonderful job in explaining childhood amnesia, when it starts, which childhood memories persist, and how to make our childhood memories more powerful.  This article gave me a deeper understanding of childhood amnesia in which we didn’t discuss in class.  I think that the research done was very helpful in giving me a better understanding of what childhood amnesia is.  I liked how they had examples of instances when childhood amnesia occurs and ways to enhance childhood memories. 

After reading the article and relating it to what we’ve discussed in class about childhood amnesia in the last couple weeks, I have gained better knowledge on childhood amnesia.  I think that childhood amnesia is such an interesting topic to talk about and learn about.  As an adult, I often don’t remember certain events from my childhood, except for maybe a small handful.  Not being able to remember these memories at such a young age is a little bit frustrating, especially when family members all know of that one embarrassing memory they have of you, which you have no recall of.  I think that research being done on childhood amnesia is great because the more we’re able to enhance childhood memories, the better.  Being an adult now, that research may not be beneficial to me, but at least they’ll be beneficial to children today.  Unlike us, maybe when they’re adults, they’ll recall of that oh-so embarrassing memory of themselves that everyone else remembers. 

3 thoughts on “The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade

  1. schung2

    I read your post and I appreciate it! I am one of those people who rarely remember things about their childhood. I can’t recall memories in my daily life as well. I agree with the article that we need a specific emotion or intense event to recall our childhood. I remember when I cut my finger and had surgery when I was 5. I think I only remember it well because first of all, my mom reminded me about it every year even now, and second, I remember that injury was really hurt.

    The thing I disagree about your statement is the third last sentence, I think this research is still important for me because parents can make their children remember by reminding them the events more frequently. My mom started to remind me after I became an adult and it didn’t work. I think they should help children remember their childhood since they are young by communicating a lot so that in the future, people can remember their childhood as well as their adolescence memory.

  2. amarti22

    This article has made me feel so much better about myself and my inability to remember a lot of my childhood. When i has around 2 years old, my older brother being around 4, we used to live in Princeton, NJ. Every time we have gone to visit, my dad always brings up childhood events. My brother ALWAYS remembers everything and I very rarely have a clue of what they are talking about. It is so frustrating cause it makes me feel like my parents waisted their time taking us to these awesome places for me not to remember anything. This childhood amnesia makes me think about what problems this may cause in the future. Like if you suffered from childhood amnesia will you suffer from Alzheimers or something related to memory loss as an adult?

    1. aestero Post author

      Thanks for your feedback guys! I’m glad I’m not the only person who rarely remembers things from their childhood! I feel like I only really remember things from the pictures in my family photo albums. I do think that this research is important, which I didn’t state clearly above or misstated what I really wanted to say, but I do think that this research is important, especially for children today. It would’ve been so helpful if this research was out when I was a child so my parents could have helped me enhance my memories!

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