Memory demands and the development of young children's memory

Child Dev. 1984 Dec;55(6):2173-91.


The primary purposes of this study were to determine the nature of and changes in early memory demands and to assess the relationship between memory demands and memory performance. 10 children at each of 2 ages--30 and 42 months--were observed in their homes for 4 2-hour sessions. Conversations between mothers and children were recorded and mother's memory-demand questions were coded for form and content from these conversations. Question form referred to whether recall or recognition was required and question content to the type of information requested--event or knowledge. Children also participated in 2 long-term memory tasks--production and verification. They were shown a dollhouse and asked to produce the names of objects that would belong in 2 rooms of the house and to verify whether particular miniature replicas of household objects belonged in the rooms. Although memory demands were frequently made, there were few changes between age 2 and 3 in the incidence or types of questions children were asked. At age 3, positive correlations were found between children's production and verification performance and content rather than form of mothers' memory-demand questions. At age 2 no overall relationships were found. Children were retested a year later on memory tasks, and for both age groups memory demands and performance were positively correlated even when initial memory-performance level was controlled. These results, along with other patterns in the data, suggested that mothers' memory demands have an impact on children's memory performance that provides at least partial support for Vygotsky's sociohistorical model of memory development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Retention, Psychology*
  • Social Environment