The Forgotten Childhood by Jon Hamilton (NPR)

Following is a powerful excerpt from NPR’s April 9 piece by Jon Hamilton The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade. Read the whole piece here:

The Power Of Story

Another powerful determinant of whether an early memory sticks is whether a child fashions it into a good story, with a time and place and a coherent sequence of events, Peterson says. “Those are the kinds of memories that are going to last,” she says.

And it turns out parents play a big role in what a child remembers, Peterson says. Research shows that when a parent helps a child give shape and structure and context to a memory, it’s less likely to fade away.

That’s something Joanne Csedrik has worked on with Francis ever since his concussion. At first, he just talked about it with her. But more recently, he’s described the incident in school writing assignments.

“I just like writing that story because I just don’t want to forget it,” Francis says.

“Because it reminds you to be careful,” his mother says. “Right. You don’t want to have that happen again.”

“I think that’s a day I’ll always remember,” Francis says.

It’s not hard to see an evolutionary reason for memories like this. Kids who recall stories about danger or injuries are probably more likely to survive to become adults.

And stories become important for a different reason in adolescence, Peterson says. That’s when people usually begin knitting together all of these smaller stories into a larger life story, “in order to explain why you are the kind of person you are,” she says.

Interestingly, a person’s life story usually includes events that should have been lost to childhood amnesia. That’s because when our own memories start to fail, Peterson says, we rely on family members, photo albums and videos to restore them.

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