Personal Stories: Autobiographical Memory and Young Children’s Stories of Their Own Lives

  • Mary Renck JalongoEmail author
Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 16)


The loss of memory due to traumatic brain injury or illness is widely regarded as a tragedy; therefore, the opposite process—namely, the construction of memory that commences in early childhood—merits careful study. Memory formation is much more than mental storage of experience over time. Memories are formed as the individual identifies significant life experiences and produces event-structured descriptions of these events, referred to as personal narratives. These remembered stories of one’s own life are told and retold, interpreted and reinterpreted, and become part of a life script. Participation in this process during early childhood contributes to the young child’s narrative abilities as well as to an emerging sense of self in relationships with others. The thesis of this chapter is that research on personal narratives during the early years offers important insights that can serve to deepen and widen families’ and educators’ understanding of the very young. It begins with definitions of memory, autobiographical memory, and personal narrative that draw from disciplines as diverse as child development, neuroscience, medicine, and literacy. It then discusses key narrative abilities and a developmental sequence for personal narrative skills during the early years. The chapter concludes with a synthesis of four strands in the research literature and implications for early childhood educators. Collectively, these evidence-based recommendations result in practical strategies that can be used to optimize the young child’s abilities in recalling, constructing, and sharing the stories of their lives.


Memory Autobiographical memory Narrative Personal narrative Story 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University of PennsylvaniaIndianaUSA

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