The first study to systematically mark the onset of "childhood
amnesia" found that by the time children are 10, their preschool
memories have already faded away.
"I expected that they would differ, but there's a striking
similarity in the age of the earliest memory for adults and
10-year-olds," researcher Dr. Carole Peterson, a psychologist
at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, said in a
She said her findings from a study of 136 children ages 6
to 19 years old further deepen the mystery surrounding childhood
amnesia, which refers to adults' inability to recall events
that occurred before the age of 4. Peterson noted that 3-
and 4-year-old children can easily recall events from their
second year. However, by the time children are 10 years old,
these earliest memories are gone.
"We don't have any good models to explain this. The memories
were there and had been verbally accessible. So, why aren't
they there any more?" Peterson asked.
She noted that parents can influence which of their children's
memories become lifelong ones. The more parents talk with
their children about particular experiences, the more likely
that this verbal reinforcement will help preserve children's
"Talking a lot about your experiences, encoding them in language,
has an impact on preserving the memory, there's no doubt about
that. But this doesn't solve the mystery of why it is that
something that you could remember and talk about at one stage,
disappears later," Peterson said.
The study was published in a recent issue of Memory.
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