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Very Early Experiences May Stick in Memory

Study: Some Children Remembered Events That Happened When They Were 2 Years Old

Early Memories: Upsetting Events Even More Likely to Be Recalled? continued...

In her research, Peterson interviewed children soon after they had been injured seriously enough to need emergency room treatment. They had broken bones or serious cuts, for instance. "Five years later all of the children could recall a lot about these injuries, and most of it was accurate," she tells WebMD.

She compared the kids' memories with interviews of adult witnesses to the injuries. The adult interviews were done shortly after the incidents.

"The children who were at least 28 months of age all remembered accurately," she says.

She has also found in another study that children recalled events from when they were just 2 years old.

While fun events like the magic game can be remembered by some children long-term, highly upsetting or stressful events such as the emergency room visit are even more likely to be recalled, Peterson says.

The new findings confirm that at least a few children can recall some experiences that happened when they were just 2 years old, says Robyn Fivush, PhD, professor of psychology at Emory University, and another expert in the field.

However, she also points out that some children, not all, recalled the game. "It was only nine children, 20%, which means that 80% could not recall it," she says.

Take-Home for Parents

Parents who want their child to remember certain early activities should talk about it after it happens, the experts agree. "Talking with children about [important] events increases the likelihood that the event will be remembered later in their lives," Peterson says.

According to Fivush, "Memories which are talked about within the family are better recalled as children grow older, so if there are special memories that you want your child to cherish, bring them up in conversation and reminisce with your child about these events."

Unique experiences are likely to be remembered best, she says: "Think of all your childhood birthday parties. If you recall a single one, it is probably because it was different in some distinctive way from the others."

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