Memory recall mirrors relationship changes across childhood. This is the finding of a study published online in the British Journal of Psychology.
Dr Carole Peterson of Memorial University of Newfoundland, along with Dr Alice Bonechi, Dr Andrea Smorti, and Dr Franca Tani of the University of Florence carried out the study which investigated the number and content of memories that people could recall from different periods of childhood, to see whether their memories reflected the people and emotions that were key to their experiences.
One hundred and 94 participants with a mean age of 22 took part in the study at the University of Florence. They were asked to recall as many memories as they could from four specific periods of their early lives: pre-school, primary school, secondary school, and high school or university. Participants were split into two groups, one group was asked to only recall memories involving their parents, and the other group, only memories involving friends. They were also asked to give a short summary of the emotions involved in each memory.
The number of memories each person recalled, and the sentiment of each memory, was compared across the four time periods and the two groups.
The researchers said: "We found some interesting patterns. The group asked to recall memories about friends provided significantly more positive memories than the group which was asked to only recall memories featuring their parents. A larger proportion of the memories involving parents were negative in the older age periods, and men had significantly more negative memories of their parents than women did."
"Our results suggest that the number and content of our memories mirror the dynamic changes that take place across our childhood and within our relationships during that time. As we progress through childhood, children increasingly turn to friends for emotional support and become less dependent on their parents; that participants recalled significantly more memories involving parents than friends from their pre-school years, but by secondary school and university recalled significantly more memories involving friends than parents, illustrates these findings."
The male, female differences observed can be explained by adolescent females being more involved within the family as well as reporting warmer and more nurturing relations with their parents than do male adolescents. In contrast, the decline across adolescence that often takes place in perceived relationship quality with parents is more pronounced for males, partly because parents often use more coercive discipline strategies with their sons than daughters.
To view the full paper online for free visit this link.
British Psychological Society