DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — A University of New Hampshire study shows that by the time most people turn 25, they have made the most important memories of their lives.
Researchers spoke with 34 members of an active retirement community, ages 59 to 92. Participants were asked to tell their life stories in 30 minutes. One week later, participants divided their life stories into self-defined ‘‘chapters.’’
Researchers found a pronounced ‘‘reminiscence bump’’ between ages 17 and 24, when many people defined chapters of their life story, beginning and ending. A reminiscence bump is a period of time between the ages of 15 and 30 when many memories positive and negative, expected and unexpected, are recalled.
‘‘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,’’ said Kristina Steiner, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH and the study’s lead researcher. ‘‘I wanted to know why this might be. 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?’’
Steiner said most people divide their life stories into chapters defined by important moments that are universal: a physical move, attending college, a first job, marriage, military experience and having children.
‘‘Our life narratives are our identity,’’ she said. ‘‘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.’’