"Life begins at 40" and "the best is still to come" may
be encouraging but untrue: A small new study suggests that people make the most
important memories of their lives by the time they're 25.
Researchers asked 34 people, aged 59 to 92, to recount their life stories
and found that they tended to focus on life transitions such as marriage
children that occurred between ages 17 and 24.
"When people look back over their lives and recount their most
important memories, most divide their life stories into chapters defined by
important moments that are universal for many: a physical move, attending
first job, marriage, military experience, and having children," lead
researcher Kristina Steiner, a doctoral student in psychology at the University
of New Hampshire, said in a university news release.
helps preserve memories
All of the participants were white and 76% had earned at least an
undergraduate degree. The findings about this "reminiscence bump" in
early adulthood were published online recently in the journal Memory.
"Many studies have consistently found that when adults are asked to
think about their lives and report memories, remembered events occurring between
the ages of 15 to 30 are over-represented. I wanted to know why this might
be," Steiner said. "Why don't adults report more memories from the
ages of 30 to 70? What is it about the ages of 15 to 30 that make them so much
She concluded: "Our life narratives are our identity. By looking at
life narratives, researchers can predict levels of well-being and psychological
adjustment in adults. Clinical therapists can use life narrative therapy to
help people work through issues and problems in their lives by helping them see
patterns and themes."
fade, but emotions linger