I have very few memories from early childhood, to the perpetual surprise and occasional exasperation of those around me. I’m an extreme case of what is usual: a 5-year-old will have good memories of what they did at age 3, but a 9-year-old will have mostly forgotten. This study tries to pin down the time and nature of “childhood amnesia”, and suggests it happens around age 7:
at ages 5 to 7, the children remembered over 60 per cent of the events they’d chatted about at age 3. However, their recall for these events was immature in the sense of containing few evaluative comments and few mentions of time and place. In contrast, children aged 8 and 9 recalled fewer than 40 per cent of the events they’d discussed at age 3, but those memories they did recall were more adult-like in their content. Bauer and Larkina said this suggests that adult-like remembering and forgetting develops at around age 7 or soon after. They also speculated that the immature form of recall seen at ages 5 to 7 could actually contribute to the forgetting of autobiographical memories – a process known as “retrieval-induced forgetting”.