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Predictors of age-related and individual variability in autobiographical memory in childhood

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Development of autobiographical memory is as a gradual process beginning in early childhood and continuing through late adolescence. Substantial attention has been paid to early childhood when first personal memories are formed; less attention has been focused on the flourishing of memories from the late preschool years onward. We addressed this void with a three-year cohort-sequential study of age-related changes in the length, completeness, and coherence of autobiographical narratives by children 4–10 years. We also examined the unique and combined variance in autobiographical narrative explained by children’s own language, maternal narrative style, domain-general cognitive abilities, non-autobiographical story recall, and memory-specific skills. There was substantial growth in autobiographical narrative skill across the 4–10-year period. Non-autobiographical story recall was a strong concurrent and cross-lagged predictor for all autobiographical narrative measures. Memory-specific and domain-general cognitive abilities systematically predicted narrative completeness and coherence but not length. Children’s language and maternal narrative style did not contribute additional variance when these predictors were considered. The findings highlight that age-related changes in autobiographical memory are the results of combined contributions of a variety of domain-general and domain-specific predictors.
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; domain-general cognition; narrative coherence; narrative development; story recall

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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