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Psychol Psychother. 2003 Mar;76(Pt 1):55-67.

Children who speak of past-life experiences: is there a psychological explanation?

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  • 1University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.


Children who claim to remember fragments of a past life are found in some countries. Various explanations have been put forward as to why the alleged memories develop, ranging from reincarnation to 'therapeutic resource'. This study puts to the test the role of some psychological characteristics and the circumstances in which the children live, such as fantasy, suggestibility, social isolation, dissociation, and attention-seeking. Thirty children in Lebanon who had persistently spoken of past-life memories, and 30 comparison children, were administered relevant tests and questionnaires. The target group obtained higher scores for daydreaming, attention-seeking, and dissociation, but not for social isolation and suggestibility. The level of dissociation was much lower than in cases of multiple personality and not clinically relevant. There was some evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms. Eighty per cent of the children spoke of past-life memories of circumstances leading to a violent death (mostly accidents, also war-related deaths and murder). It is discussed if this imagery-when experienced repeatedly-may serve as a stressor.

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