Children can recall memories from the age of 18-months - but forget them between the ages of four and seven, new research suggests.
It was previously thought that children under the age of four did not have the language or cognitive abilities to form lasting memories, explaining why most adults were unable to recall their earliest experiences.
But researchers at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada found children as young as four could recall baby memories, that when asked about later on in childhood they could not recall.
Carole Peterson, a psychology professor who undertook the research, said that her team found very young children had plenty of memories to talk about. "But by age 10, those memories seem to get crystallized," she said.
Peterson's team interviewed 140 children aged 4 to 13-years-old, asking them to describe their three earliest memories.
Surprisingly the youngest children could recall memories from as early as 18 months. All the while parents were present to confirm what the children were saying had actually taken place when they said it did.
The team then re-interviewed the children two years later, asking them to recall those same early memories.
They found that those aged between four and seven when first interviewed could not recall their "earliest" memories - even when prompted with specific clues. However, a third of children aged between 10 and 13-years-old at the start of the study recalled the same memories.
The results suggest that solid, "life long" memories form some time at or after the age of 10 - before these memories are more fragile and liable to fade. The study, published in the journal Child Development, suggests that our “psychological childhood” begins much later than previously thought.