Childhood amnesia and the beginnings of memory for four early life events

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1993 Jun;122(2):155-65. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.122.2.155.


Childhood amnesia was examined in a between-groups study of adults' memories of 4 datable target events--the birth of a younger sibling, a hospitalization, the death of a family member, and making a family move. College students (N = 222) answered questions about events that had occurred when they were 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 years old and also about external information sources, such as family stories. Results show that the offset of childhood amnesia (earliest age of recall) is age 2 for hospitalization and sibling birth and 3 for death and move. Thus, some memories are available from earlier in childhood than previous research has suggested. Subjects' mothers judged most of their children's memories as accurate. External information sources were negatively related to recall from the earlier ages (2-3) but positively to recall from later ages (4-5). These results are compatible with a multiple-determinants account of childhood amnesia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bereavement
  • Birth Order
  • Female
  • Freudian Theory
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Personality Development*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Sibling Relations