Episodic and Semantic Autobiographical Memory and Everyday Memory during Late Childhood and Early Adolescence

Front Psychol. 2012 Feb 28;3:53. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00053. eCollection 2012.


Few studies have examined both episodic and semantic autobiographical memory (AM) performance during late childhood and early adolescence. Using the newly developed Children's Autobiographical Interview (CAI), the present study examined the effects of age and sex on episodic and semantic AM and everyday memory in 182 children and adolescents. Results indicated that episodic and semantic AM both improved between 8 and 16 years of age; however, age-related changes were larger for episodic AM than for semantic AM. In addition, females were found to recall more episodic AM details, but not more semantic AM details, than males. Importantly, this sex difference in episodic AM recall was attenuated under conditions of high retrieval support (i.e., the use of probing questions). The ability to clearly visualize past events at the time of recollection was related to children's episodic AM recall performance, particularly the retrieval of perceptual details. Finally, similar age and sex effects were found between episodic AM and everyday memory ability (e.g., memory for everyday activities). More specifically, older participants and females exhibited better episodic AM and everyday memory performance than younger participants and males. Overall, the present study provides important new insight into both episodic and semantic AM performance, as well as the relation between episodic AM and everyday memory, during late childhood and adolescence.

Keywords: adolescence; autobiographical memory; childhood; development; everyday memory; sex differences.