Childhood Events Recalled by Children and Adults


Publisher Summary

This chapter examines two parallel yet distinctive phenomena of human memory. First, most adults can recall few if any specific events from the early years of life. Second, attempts by preschool children to recall past events on demand-even events of the previous day-frequently are unsuccessful by adult standards. A tantalizing parallelism is evident about the connection, if any, between the paucity of early childhood memories for adults and the limitations of an immature human memory system. The chapter delineates possible connections between early memory development and the difficulties that most adults experience when trying to remember events of their childhood. Two prior questions have to be addressed. First, evidence for the presumed lack of early memories in adults-commonly termed childhood amnesia-has with a few notable exceptions consisted of clinical case studies. Critical new data have been presented in the past few years. So, what is the current scientific status of this concept? Second, systematic studies of preschoolers' memory for naturally occurring events, practically nonexistent 10 or 20 years ago, also have increased sharply in the 1980s. Is a deficiency of memory in early childhood convincingly demonstrated? A review and integration of research on memories of childhood events is timely for two reasons. First, the most compelling evidence has appeared in the last few years and has not yet been synthesized. Second, both adults' and children's recall failures have practical consequences. For adults, reconstruction of early childhood events remains an important component of psychotherapy. For preschool children, the question of whether they can recall specific episodes has become a critical and controversial aspect of legal testimony.



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Book Chapter


Copyright © 1989 Academic Press, Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.