The Recollective Qualities of Adolscents' and Adults' Narratives about a Long-Ago Tornado

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The recollective qualities of autobiographical memory are thought to develop over the course of the first two decades of life. We used a 9-year follow-up test of recall of a devastating tornado and of non-tornado-related events from before and after the storm, to compare the recollective qualities of adolescents’ (n = 20, ages 11 years, 11 months to 20 years, 8 months) and adults’ (n = 14) autobiographical memories. At the time of the tornado, half of the adolescents had been younger than age 6. Nine years after the event, all participants provided evidence that they recall the event of the tornado. Adults also had high levels of recall of the non-tornado-related events. Adolescents recalled proportionally fewer non-tornado-related events; adolescents younger than 6 at the time of the events recalled the fewest non-tornado-related events. Relative to adolescents, adults produced longer narratives. With narrative length controlled, there were few differences in the recollective qualities of adolescents’ and adults’ narrative reports, especially in the case of the tornado; the recollective qualities were stronger among adolescents older at the time of the events. Overall, participants in both age groups provided evidence of the qualities of recollection that are characteristic of autobiographical memory.



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