Childhood Amnesia: Theoretical Explanations

Subject: Psychology
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 833
Topics: Childhood, Disease, Medicine

Table of Contents


Childhood amnesia refers to the inability of an individual to recall memories from the first two or three years of life. Childhood amnesia, also known as infantile amnesia in individuals, affects people and renders them unable to retrieve situation memories. Psychological theorists argue that an individual can retrieve his/her memory because the phenomena of its complexity rely on experiences. An individual’s memory can be short-lived resulting in inconsistencies while trying to retrieve the information. Permanent storage of information depends on the development of the brain structures especially the hippocampus. Forgetfulness can also occur when an individual represses the traumatic memories that seem improbable. Some theorists claim that child amnesia can also result from protracted brain development, leading to the failure of brain cells to retrieve memories.  The paper will argue that child amnesia is caused by from the onset of languages as a cognitive change.

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Memory defines an individual as it eludes validity and transiency of an event in someone’s life. People struggle to remember as they fail to encode, store and retrieve the experiences from the past. Sigmund Freud referred to child Amnesia as the incomplete absence of memories but relative accountancy by a forgetting curve because of personal experiences (Morgan & Hayne, 2011). Children learn proficiently and preserve the information as their brain undergoes development. However, frequent change in residential areas caused by life events may lead to an individuals’ failure to recollect, access, and retrieve the memories. Sigmund Freud hypothesized that Child Amnesia is caused by the attempt of the mind of an individual to recollect the traumatic occurrences and the developmental stages (Bauer, 2015). The experiences such as learning new language suppress the earlier life experiences, therefore, caused childhood amnesia.

A child acquires rehearsal experiences by repeating the content of conversations structures and organizes their ability to the creation of memory. During the cognitive developmental stages, a child acquires autobiographical memory, and therefore, deprivation of communicating at during these stages can lead to memory loss. The research by Harlene (2014) showed that language plays a crucial role in the development of memory. The ability to recall the memories results from rehearsal, therefore, lack of language at early ages contributes to childhood amnesia. Harlene (2014) Suggested that deaf adults have flaws in their early memories because while young, they had no established sign language system. According to Freud, the success at early childhood encouraged by positive outcomes from parents helps children feel capable and productive. The personality developed at early stages creates positive experiences, and when individuals grow, they have the capability to remember most of what happened during their childhood.

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The hippocampus plays a significant role in recalling memory. In childhood, experiences allow children to stabilize on autobiographical memories neurologically. During childhood, language and experiences contribute to successful storage of information in the non-verbal form (White and Pillemer, 2014). Children who experience healthy upbringing learns the language and store vocal information as they grow. The changes in experiences when learning a new language expresses the change in task performance, therefore, limits the capacity of recalling memories. However, differences in encoding information lead to the inability to retrieve childhood memories at adulthood. Problems associated with upbringing makes it difficult for an individual to recall childhood memories. Inappropriate and disturbing contents of early childhood contribute to traumatic experiences (Bauer, 2015). Childhood amnesia, therefore, is caused by the delays in learning a language during infancy.

Piaget’s theory talks about the aspect and concepts of language, scientific reasoning, and memory as it concerns moral development. Children learn things on their own without the intervention of other people and are intrinsically determined to gain experiences from self-learning. The interaction between nature and nurture of the children influences cognitive development, which helps the children respond, perceive and learn. The children translate incoming information to understand the surrounding which helps in integrating their experiences into the brain system. The adaptation of the children to the responsive environment creates new experiences and improve the abilities to recall the memories in later stages of life. The learned language by children, according to the psychological findings made by White and Pillemer (2014), helps them process their memories. Comparing the findings from Bauer (2015), language development enhances memory retention, and during adulthood, an individual can recall and process the information. Failure to develop a reliable communication skill by learning a language during an early childhood contributes to Childhood Amnesia.

To sum up, psychological theorists explain childhood Amnesia as the inability of an individual to recall memories from the first two or three years of life. The difficult to recall the information poses a debate on the application of psychological science, which led to the development of several theories explaining Childhood Amnesia. However, using Freud and Piaget’s findings, language poses as the influencer of childhood amnesia. Language contributes to the cognitive development, and because the brain of the child is developing, experiences stick as a memory for the individual. Children learn by engagement in activities surrounding them. As a result, the experiences help them gain childhood memories, which are retained until adulthood. However, a change in upbringing changes the experiences of the individual. Childhood Amnesia, therefore, develops when an individual undergoes cognitive development to acquire experiences that drag out the traumatic experiences of the early childhood.

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  1. Morgan, K., & Hayne, H. (2011). Age-related changes in visual recognition memory during infancy and early childhood. Developmental Psychobiology, 53, 157–165.
  2. Harlene, H. (2014). Infant memory development: implications for Childhood Amnesia. Developmental Review, 24, 33-73.
  3. White, S. H., & Pillemer, D. B. (2014). Childhood amnesia and the development of a socially accessible memory system. Functional Disorders of Memory (PLE: Memory), 14, 29.
  4. Bauer, P. J. (2015). A complementary processes account of the development of childhood amnesia and a personal past. Psychological Review, 122(2), 204.
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