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 and having 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 college, a 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.
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 more memorable?"
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."