Baby Memories Are There, Just Forgotten

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
Baby Memories
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Baby memories are formed as early as 18 months of age but the ability to be able to recall these memories disappear somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7, says researchers.

How A Child's Brain Processes Memories

Crying over a rug-burned knee or laughing hysterically at a silly sibling – these types of very early events were previously thought to not form memories in a baby's brain. Researchers believed that children younger than 4 years of age did not have the language and cognitive capacity to store and recall memories in the way that adults do. So, rather than these memories being lost, they were never formed to begin with; a phenomenon known as “infantile amnesia”.

However, researchers from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada challenged this belief in their study published in the medical journal Childhood Development. They observed that young children do talk quite a lot about their past experiences and memories. "So it was very clear that the explanation that had been given for adults just had to be wrong, because children do have the cognitive, linguistic and memory skills to talk about things that had occurred in their past," said Carol Peterson, psychology professor and contributor on the study.

Finding Earliest Memories

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For this study Peterson and her colleagues interviewed 140 children from the ages of 4 to 13 and asked them to describe their earliest memories. Children between 4 and 7 were able to name baby memories from early as just a year and a half old. Older children couldn't recall those early memories, but rather something that occurred later in their lives. The validity of the memories were verified by the parents.

"The whole phenomenon of infantile amnesia is clearly a moving target in children, because as children move from 4 to 10, their [earliest] memories get later and later," Peterson said. "But by age 10, those memories seem to get crystallized."

The same group of children was interviewed two years later. Those who were previously in the 4-7 age group described different baby memories than they did in the first interview – demonstrating that these memories fade as the child ages. However, when the interviewer prompted the child about the earlier memory that was, in most cases, enough to help the child remember the event. Peterson commented that she and her colleagues were surprised to find that traumatic memories were not ones first to be recalled.

The researchers still do not understand what it is that makes these early baby memories fade with time, however it is becoming clear that children may truly have the ability to form memories at a very early age. Further controlled studies are needed to prove this theory.

Image Source: Morgue File
Article Resource: Childhood Development

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