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Maternal Reminiscing Style During Early Childhood Predicts the Age of Adolescents’ Earliest Memories


  • This research was supported by a Marsden Grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand to Harlene Hayne. Preparation of this article was supported by a University of Otago Postgraduate Publishing Award (Ph.D.) to Fiona Jack. We thank Karen Tustin, Nicola Davis, Debbie McLachlan, and all of the children and parents who participated in this research.
    Parts of the research described in this article formed portions of the first and second authors’ Ph.D. theses.

concerning this article should be addressed to Harlene Hayne, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Electronic mail may be sent to


Individual differences in parental reminiscing style are hypothesized to have long-lasting effects on children’s autobiographical memory development, including the age of their earliest memories. This study represents the first prospective test of this hypothesis. Conversations about past events between 17 mother–child dyads were recorded on multiple occasions between the children’s 2nd and 4th birthdays. When these children were aged 12–13 years, they were interviewed about their early memories. Adolescents whose mothers used a greater ratio of elaborations to repetitions during the early childhood conversations had earlier memories than adolescents whose mothers used a smaller ratio of elaborations to repetitions. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that past-event conversations during early childhood have long-lasting effects on autobiographical memory.