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Dev Psychol. 2010 Sep;46(5):1049-61. doi: 10.1037/a0020105.

Defining the boundary: age-related changes in childhood amnesia.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Abstract

Childhood amnesia refers to the inability of adults to recall events that occurred during their infancy and early childhood. Although it is generally assumed that children and adolescents also experience childhood amnesia, with limited exceptions, most empirical research on the phenomenon has focused exclusively on adults. Here, we developed a new Timeline procedure to directly compare the early memories reported by children, adolescents, and adults. Overall, the proportion of memories reported before the age of 3 years was greater for the children and adolescents relative to the adults. In addition, the single earliest memory reported by children and adolescents was at a younger age than that reported by adults. In fact, the earliest memories reported by the children and adolescents, but not the adults, were significantly younger than the traditional 3 (1/2)-year-old boundary of childhood amnesia. Regardless of the age of the rememberer, participants' early memories had the same episodic characteristics. We conclude that the boundary and the density of childhood amnesia may increase over the course of human development and that age-related changes in basic memory mechanisms make an important contribution to our understanding of the source of childhood amnesia.

PMID:
20822222
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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