CHILDHOOD DAMAGES The Ripple Effect

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Teenagers and young adults — ages 16 to 24 — are the most intense users of social media. Benefits of social media use include enhancing friendships and decreasing loneliness.

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But there is also evidence that overuse has a negative impact on self-esteem and satisfaction with their lives. And this social media use is also linked to an increase in mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and suicidality. Increased time on social media has had dramatic effects on teen behavior, including fewer risky social activities and more mental health symptoms.

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If social media replaces negative activities or isolation, it can be positive. If it replaces face-to-face interaction or exercise, it can be negative. And multiple studies have found that severe sleep debt is linked to suicidal ideation. Teens, Social Media Technology Overview. Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Psychological Science , 27 7 , — Journal of Research on Adolescence , 22 3 , — Electronic gaming and psychosocial adjustment. Journal of Research on Adolescence and Pediatrics , 3. Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. If the experimenter asks the participant to specifically use childhood memories or the earliest memories associated with a cue, the age estimate can be two to eight years. The researchers found that the younger children need more prompts or cues.

However, for both children and adults, the earliest memory retrieval was around three years old. Free recall refers to the specific paradigm in the psychological study of memory where participants study a list of items on a specific trial, and are then prompted to recall the items in any order. Free recall, in regard to childhood amnesia, is the process by which experimenters ask individuals for their earliest memories, and allow the participant to respond freely. In the exhaustive recall method, participants are asked to record all the memories they can access before a specific age.

Exhaustive recall yields a better understanding than others on the amount of memories surviving from early childhood, but can be demanding for the subjects who often have to spend many hours trying to remember events from their childhood. The amount of early childhood memories a person can recall depends on many factors, including emotion associated with the event, their age at the time of the remembered event and the age at the time they are asked to recall an early memory.

Availability of a memory is the idea that the memory is intact and is in memory storage. Accessibility of a memory is dictated by the moment in time that a person attempts to recall that memory. Therefore, cues may influence which memories are accessible at any given time even though there may be many more available memories that are not accessed. Usher and Neisser [ citation needed ] reported that some events, like the birth of a sibling and a planned hospitalization, can be readily remembered if they occurred at age 2.

However, the bits and pieces of such memories that were obtained in their research may not be indicative of genuine episodic memory. An alternative hypothesis is that these apparent memories are the result of educated guesses, general knowledge of what must have been, or external information acquired after the age of 2. According to a study by West and Bauer, their research suggests that earlier memories have less emotional content than later memories, and are less personally meaningful, unique, or intense. Earlier memories also do not seem to differ greatly in perspective.

Adults find it easier to remember personal, rather than public, event memories from early childhood. This means a person would remember getting a dog, but not the appearance of Halley's Comet. Psychologists have debated the age of adults' earliest memories. To date, estimates have ranged from 2 to 6—8 years of age. Thus, some memories are available from earlier in childhood than previous research has suggested.

Some research suggests that until around the age of 4, children cannot form context-rich memories. Although more evidence is needed, the relative lack of episodic memories of early childhood may be linked to maturation of prefrontal cortex. Known memories change to more personal recollections at approximately 4.


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Children can form memories at younger ages than adults can recall. While the efficiency of encoding and storage processes allows older children to remember more, [27] younger children also have great memory capacity. Infants can remember the actions of sequences, the objects used to produce them, and the order in which the actions unfold, suggesting that they possess the precursors necessary for autobiographical memory.

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Some suggest that as children age, they lose the ability to recall preverbal memories. This increased ability for children to remember their early years does not start to fade until children reach double digits.

The phenomenon of infantile amnesia is not specific to humans. This initially was researched in rat models and found that younger rats forget a conditioned avoidance response to a shock-paired compartment faster than older rats did. These findings have also been replicated in a number of different species with different learning paradigms. Because infantile amnesia has been observed in animals, the occurrence cannot be explained just by cognition specific to humans such as language or an understanding of self. Of course, a main criticism of animal models is that development and cognition in animals and humans are starkly different.

Researchers have attempted to address this by creating timelines for animal development based on changes in learning and memory abilities, brain development, and hormones. Many factors affect memory in humans, including gender and culture. Importantly, the individual differences described below tell us that elaborative parenting styles and emphasis of cultural history when teaching children may result in recollection of earlier childhood memories. This suggests that childhood amnesia offset is modifiable by parenting and teaching styles and is therefore not only predetermined or completely biological.

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Generally, when a sex discrepancy is found in the age at first memories, females have earlier memories than males. Men have been found more likely than women to mention negative memories. MacDonald et al. This effect was due to Chinese females, whose average age at first memory was 6. It has been suggested that since sons are prized far over daughters in China, parents may have more elaborate, evaluative, and emotional reminiscent styles with boys than with girls.

It may be that White parents are more likely to use directives than to elaborately reminisce with daughters in Black American culture. Findings that Korean individuals have significantly later first memories than American individuals was originally thought to be caused by the collectivist nature of Asian cultures.

Maori adults report significantly earlier memories than either Pakeha or Chinese individuals. The traditional emphasis on the past in Maori culture may have led to an earlier understanding of the nature of time, and to the retrieval of earlier memories. Maori are also more likely than Pakeha or Chinese individuals to indicate a family story as a source for their memory. Individuals' first memories significantly reflect their personality traits. Even when childhood events are not remembered episodically , they can be implicitly remembered.

Humans can be primed and implicitly trained earlier before they can remember facts or autobiographical events. Adults can generally recall events from 3—4 years old, [6] [8] and have primarily experiential memories beginning around 4. However, some suggest that adults who had traumatic and abusive early childhoods report an offset of childhood amnesia around 5—7 years old. Very few adults have memories from before 2. Those who do report memories from before this age usually cannot tell the difference between personal memory of the event and simple knowledge of it, which may have come from other sources.


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These should be treated with caution, especially if they have severe consequences. Using the same paradigm, people that are shown a doctored photograph of themselves as a child in an event that never occurred can create false memories of the event by imagining the event over time. This concern has led the APA to advise caution in accepting memories of physically and sexually abusive events from before the age of 2. However they also recommend that these memories not be entirely discounted, due to the heinous nature of the crimes.

Sigmund Freud is famous for his theories of psychosexual development which suggest that people's personality traits stem from their libido sexual appetite which develops from early childhood experiences. This supposedly led to the repression of the majority of memories from the first years of life when children were supposedly obsessed with exploring their sexuality.

While Freudian psychosexual theory is widely debunked, there are some insights to be made into the effect of childhood emotional abuse on memory.

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Examining the effects of emotional trauma and childhood amnesia shows that stressful experiences do in fact disrupt memory and can damage central parts of the memory system such as the hippocampus and amygdala. In addition, they demonstrate considerable problems with visual, pictorial, and facial memory storage and retrieval compared to non-traumatized individuals. The amygdala which is primarily concerned with emotions and emotional content of memories and the hippocampus which concerns primarily autobiographical memories are generally independent, but emotions and the amygdala are known to play a role in memory encoding , which is typically associated with the hippocampus.

It has been suggested that differences in the emotions experienced by infants and adults may be a cause of childhood amnesia.

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Some studies have discovered that emotional experiences are connected with faster retrieval times, leading to the belief that emotional events have heightened accessibility in our memories. The evolutionary psychology states that if a past event was particularly frightening or upsetting, one is apt to avoid a similar situation in the future, especially if it is endangering to one's well-being.

In addition, the more significant an event, the bigger impact it has and the more rehearsal it receives. Various findings have shown that events such as hospitalization and the birth of a sibling are correlated with an earlier offset of childhood amnesia, which may be because they were more emotionally memorable.