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“When I Was Little”: Childhood Recollections in Chinese and European Canadian Grade School Children


  • Preparation of this article was primarily supported by Grant 513-02 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Carole Peterson, Grant BCS-0721171 from the National Science Foundation to Qi Wang, and Grant 70671003 from the National Science Foundation of China to Yubo Hou. Additional funding came from the summer undergraduate research fellowship program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We thank Nicole Cumby, Lis Harmundal, Suzanne Hedd, Lael Kippenhuck, Kristle Lambert, Christa Vincent, and Meng Zhang for their assistance. We also thank Kelly Warren for statistical consultation. Most of all we thank the children and their parents for participating.

concerning this article should be addressed to Carole Peterson, Psychology Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1B 3X9, Canada. Electronic mail may be sent to


Recollection of early childhood experiences was investigated in 225 European Canadian and 133 Chinese children (ages 8, 11, and 14) by a memory fluency task that measured accessibility of multiple early memories and elicited the earliest memory. Younger children provided memories of events that occurred at earlier ages than older children. Furthermore, Canadian children produced more memories and had an earlier age of first memory than did Chinese children, with cultural differences in both measures increasing with age. It appears that while adultlike childhood amnesia is still emerging among Canadian children, Chinese children by age 14 already resemble adults. Content of Canadian versus Chinese children’s memories reflected an autonomous versus relational self-construal. Results are discussed in terms of sociocultural influences on memory.