All of us do not remember much about our childhood but it is a known thing that childhood has deep impacts on how our adult lives are shaped.
No one has a conscious memory of early childhood and it is frequently asked a question that ‘why can’t I remember my childhood’.
Most people think that childhood memories just fade away with the passage of time but many theories have been proposed to explore the question of why can’t I remember my childhood.
This article will explore these theories in detail to explain the answer to the question of why can’t I remember my childhood.
Why can’t I remember my childhood:
Parenting is an act of nurturing which can be considered completely selfless as children completely forget how they have been treated in childhood.
All of us cannot exactly remember the early six or seven years of our lives.
This phenomenon is called childhood amnesia. Childhood amnesia is also known as infantile amnesia.
We all question at some point in our lives that why can’t I remember my childhood which makes a real phenomenon but it has not been explored enough.
Few theories answering question why can’t I remember my childhood is presented below.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: Sense of self?
The first theory explaining the question why can’t I remember my childhood relates childhood amnesia to the concept of self.
According to this theory having a firm concept of self helps a person to remember things in a better way.
As children do not have a concept of self they are unable to form memories.
Proponents of this theory imply that children who are able to recognize themselves in the mirror are more likely to remember how to play with toys.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: Out with the old?
The recently proposed theory explains the question of why can’t I remember my childhood base on their explanation of physical features.
It relates to the process of neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is a process that establishes new nerve cells which happens in a process when new memories are stored.
Neurogenesis is the fastest which occurs at the highest rate during the early year of life.
According to this theory when new nerve cells are developed in the brain, old nerve cells are wiped out or recycled.
When those old nerve cells are wiped out it takes away the memories with them.
We can put it in a way that a person needs to pay a certain cost for his brain to develop in the early years of his life which is paid in terms of his loss of memory.
This theory was proven through experimentation on mice where they were given the electric shocks and went through neurogenesis.
Scientists observed that mice hung out at the places happily where they were given shocks but once neurogenisis was stopped, conditioning became apparent and they stopped hanging out at their place.
This same experiment was conducted with older mice and in reverse when they observed that mice avoided the places where they were given electric shocks but after neurogenesis, they forgot about the shocking incident and hung happily at those places.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: The role of language?
Another perspective was given to explore the question of why can’t I remember my childhood that is the role of language.
Early ages are years in children’s lives where they start from speaking one word to speaking fluently their native language.
According to this perspective, there is a major overlap between the period when a person becomes fluent in the language and the time of childhood amnesia.
This has been proven by the research that the ability of a child to verbalize the event at the time happened will predict how well a child would be able to remember it over the period of time.
An experiment was conducted with toddlers who were taken to the emergency department for childhood injuries.
Researchers observed that toddlers above 26 months who were able to verbalize it was able to recall the event even after 5 years but toddlers below 26 months who were not able to talk about the event could not remember much about the event.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: Social and Cultural Impacts?
Most of the researchers who explain the question why can’t I remember my childhood from the perspective of language, they take into account the role of narrative as a social function.
When parents reminisce about social events to their children they teach them skills of narration that is how to structure their speech so that others can understand them.
Reminiscing not only involve talking about factual information but revolves around the social function of sharing experiences.
Thus reminiscing plays an important in keeping the family memory firm and strengthening the narrative skills of the individual.
The coherent the stories are the better they are remembered.
Different functions are played by reminiscing in a different culture which might affect the quantity and quality of memories.
It has been observed that individuals who grow up in a more individualistic culture can recall the events from earlier childhood in a better way than individuals who grow up in the collectivist culture.
This difference is accounted for by the style of reminiscing by the parents as in individualistic culture the style adopted by parents is more autonomous and prefers the feelings of children in contrast to parents in collectivist societies.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: Maturation of memory processes?
Another theory conceptualizes the answer to the question of why can’t I remember my childhood in terms of the maturation of memory processes.
According to this perspective, the memory process does not remain the same but they mature with a period of time.
Thus this perspective takes into account the development of memory processes leading to childhood amnesia.
Different parts of the brain are involved in basic memory processes that are encoding, storage, and retrieval.
The hippocampus plays a major role in the formation of memories and MRI studies have shown that the hippocampus continues to mature until the age of 7 at least.
It is also known that specific boundaries of childhood amnesia, which is usually three to four years, changes with the age.
Young adults can remember earlier things than older adults.
This explanation implies that why can’t I remember my childhood has more to do with maintaining memories than forming them.
This developmental explanation is the best one scientist has got so far.
Why can’t I remember my childhood: Repression?
We all are aware that childhood memories play a major role in shaping our adult life and behavior.
The incident such as emotional abuse or physical abuse, which we experience in childhood, had major impacts on how we are as adults.
For some individuals there occurs phenomenon in their brain where they seem to just forget about what has happened to them in childhood to avoid their impact on mental health.
This phenomenon is known as repression. The question of why can’t I remember my childhood can be explained in terms of repression.
It should be noted here that repression does not happen for everyone but someone thought process can indicate that either you have repressed your memories or it is just a normal course of development.
According to psychotherapist Rev. Sheri Hiller, “Repressed childhood memories or amnesic blocks can be indicative of trauma. When I do an initial consult for someone seeing therapy I typically ask if there are periods in their early life in which recall is sketchy or inaccessible.”
Despite that energy being repressed or blocked it can manifest itself in terms of phobias, weeping, pervasive anxiety, and aggressive explosions.
“The repression of negative childhood memories contributes to subsequent re-victimization as one is subconsciously acting out the dynamics they have repressed with the subconscious hope to master the trauma,” Heller says.
This explains why individuals who have repressed memories are more inclined towards reckless and compulsive behavior such as addiction.
Following thought processes might be indicative of repressed childhood memories.
- I’m tired:
“It is through repressed childhood memories where phobias develop, so look for the phobic reactions you harbor and most probably you will find a repressed childhood memory behind it,” Dr. John Mayer.
Childhood memories are repressed in the brain because they are traumatic for an individual.
This repression manifests itself in terms of unknown fears thus if a person has some unknown fear of snakes or spiders, this might be indicative of repressed childhood memories.
- Always jumpy:
A person who is always hyper-vigilant and remains anxious for most periods of the time might have some repressed childhood memories.
These repressed childhood memories might manifest themselves with such thought patterns.
- Afraid of being alone:
If a person is afraid of being alone that might reflect some abandonment or attachment issues.
Such issues can be indicative of the childhood experience of bullying.
A person’s isolation might be his attempt to reach out to others to overcome anxieties.
- Aversive to certain smells:
Aversion to different smells, texture or places which is a person is unable to explain could be a sign of repressed childhood memories.
Stimuli to which a person is aversive to might indicate which events he or she has repressed in memory.
- Hate being touched:
A person who struggles in their sexual interpersonal relationship might have some repressed memories of sexual trauma.
Such repressed memories result in hatred towards sexual fantasies and desires.
Strong physical stimuli will repulsion to that person.
- Feeling Sick:
Anxiety usually is the outcome of repressed memories and high resting anxiety can result in the compromised immune system thus if a person feels sick for a longer period of time which any known reason this might indicate that he or she has some repressed memories.
- I hate myself:
If a person holds him or herself too much accountable this might indicate that he had some negative childhood experiences.
As such hatred directed towards self might be the result of socialization a person had while growing up.
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It is a widely asked question why can’t I remember my childhood.
Many theorists and researchers have attempted to answer this question through different perspectives such as by taking into account the role of language, culture, and social values, developmental processes or repression f traumatic events.
A developmental perspective seems to provide the best answer for why can’t I remember my childhood.
FAQs about Why Can’t I remember my childhood
Why can’t I remember my childhood at all?
There can many reasons why a person cannot remember his or her childhood.
Forgetting childhood experiences might be a function of the normal course of development but it can also be indicative of repressed memories.
Why can’t I remember my childhood and teenage years?
Memory loss can result in an experience of extreme stress and anxiety.
Dissociative amnesia often results in stress.
Is not remembering your childhood normal?
Childhood amnesia is an inability of the individual to retrieve early childhood experiences.
It is also known as infantile amnesia.
Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki (2017). Why you probably can’t remember your childhood. Retrieved from: abc.net.au
Kristine Fellizar (2018). 7 Thoughts That Could Mean You Are Repressing Childhood Memories
7 Thoughts That Could Mean You Are Repressing Childhood Memories. Retrieved from: bustle.com