The Power of the Earliest Memories

Photo credit:Wall Street Journal

What is your earliest memory from childhood? Columnist Sue Shellenbarger discusses the latest research on why it’s important for parents to help kids develop early memories, instead of just focusing on sharing pictures of them on social media.

Here’s a key finding: kids who can recall memories from their daily lives are more likely to develop a strong sense of self, as well as to create relationships with others and be better decision-makers later on.

As psychology professor Robyn Fivush, of Emory University, says, “Our personal memories define who we are. They bond us together.” And Shellenbarger says that studies have shown that parents who teach their children the power of sharing their stories can help the children to be better problem-solvers.

Since the brain is still developing, children’s early memories can be forgotten by the time they are 6 or 8 years old. There are three different types of memories: those that are associated with one’s identity, those that can influence our behavior, and those that involve the connections we have with others, or “social-bonding memories.” And a study of 103 college students, published in the journal Memory, says that the ability to recall all three types leads to the highest level of psychological well-being and better connections with others.

Research also shows that parents who encourage their children to recall early memories using open-ended questions can help them to retain those memories. How do you help your children to build and remember their early-life experiences? Share Your Story with us!

The Wall Street Journal, 4/7/14

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