What remains of that day: The survival of children's autobiographical memories across time

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Abstract

In this study we investigated the contributions of the content and the coherence of initial event reports to the survival of autobiographical memories during part of the lifespan eventually obscured by childhood amnesia. Over 100 children reported personal experiences when they were 4, 6 or 8 years old, enabling a determination of age-related differences in two aspects of narrative coherence: Theme and chronology. Content was assessed separately through the presentation of directed memory probes. After a 1-year delay, younger children more frequently failed to report target experiences. Multilevel modelling indicated that the survivability of a memory was predicted over and above the child's age by high thematic coherence of the initial memory narrative, but not by the memory content. It is possible that memories described in a highly thematically coherent narrative are indicative of well-integrated event memories, and thus likely to be cued more often, resulting in their long-term survival. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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