Childhood Amnesia

Childhood amnesia is a paucity of a certain type of memory known as autobiographical memory. Autobiographical memories relate to events that happened to one’s self; events in which one participated; and about which one had emotions, thoughts, reactions, and reflections. From a theoretical standpoint, childhood amnesia is interesting and important because of its implications for one’s sense of self. Although we consider ourselves as continuous in space and time, there is a point in development at which that continuity ends. That moment in time is the boundary of childhood amnesia. Childhood amnesia thus presents itself as apparent evidence of discontinuity in development.
In addition to the defining feature of self-relevance, autobiographical memories have a number of characteristic features. They tend to (1) be of unique events that happened at a specific place, at a specific time; (2) entail a sense of conscious, autonoetic, or self-knowing awareness that one is re-experiencing an event that happened at some point in the past; (3) be expressed verbally; (4) be long-lasting; and (5) be veridical. This family resemblance definition of autobiographical memory (i.e., a concept specified by characteristic, as opposed to defining, features) has important implications for how we conceptualize its developmental course (see section entitled ‘Explaining autobiographical memory development’)

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