Stress and Infant Psychology: How Much Do Babies Remember?

A new study shows that infants as young as six months remember emotionally stressful situations and are able to anticipate that negativity when exposed to the same context again. The study measured stress hormones while parents were briefly ignoring their child, then created the same environment 24 hours later. The second time, parents remained attentive, but the stress hormones spiked until the child was reassured the situation wasn’t repeating itself. These findings may help explain why people who experienced isolation or neglect, even only as infants who couldn’t remember specific situations, still need the help of a therapist or counselor to address social and emotional stress and anxiety as adults.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • stan

    stan

    September 1st, 2010 at 3:37 AM

    its amazing how even the things that we cannot remember, things that occurred when we were babies, can have a lasting effect on us and our psyche. but such things are beyond our control and it also proves that nobody can have a perfect setting to actually develop their psyche optimally.

  • danielle

    danielle

    September 1st, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    My question is this: do you think that they really remember or are they remembering this because of things that have been told to them by other people in the past?

  • Richard

    Richard

    September 1st, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    @danielle:I don’t think a parent or anybody else for that matter would actually remember and tell a small thing such as leaving the baby unattended for a short time.it has to be with how we are wired,to remember things without even our own knowledge!

  • Steve

    Steve

    September 1st, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    We’ve never given babies credit for being as smart as they are from birth. Babies need to survive and count on adults to do so. No wonder they get stressed fast when they are not attended to right away.

  • Sal

    Sal

    September 1st, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    The idea of a built-in mechanism that helps them recognize a stressful situation reoccuring makes sense. The baby would need to draw attention to that before the pattern repeated. Of course it would get stressed out waiting for a response.

  • sophia

    sophia

    September 1st, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Babies cry so mournfully for a reason. Ever been in a room with a crowd of mothers when a baby starts howling? You can see they each want to comfort it and attend to its needs, even when it’s not their own. Mother Nature did a good job including that in a baby’s makeup.

  • john

    john

    September 2nd, 2010 at 4:46 AM

    They may not remember specific things but I do think that some things are imprinted on them from a very early age so that they at least have a good sense of things that happened to them or around them in the past.

  • Dave

    Dave

    April 4th, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    I was adopted and had many health issues, When i was an infant. My mom told me later that I made many trips to the hospital between in my first 6 months of life. I am 37 now and I remember having nightmares all the way up to my teens where I couldn’t breathe and the air was a sickly green color. a couple of years ago I went to the same hospital, i had gone to as a baby. and had a major flash back. the walls were exactly the same color as my dreams… I wonder if i subconciously remembered my visits to the hospital.

  • Michael

    Michael

    April 20th, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Dave, I, too, was adopted. Apparently, I had health issues before I was adopted with chronic bronchitis because guardians (birth grandparents) were heavy smokers. I wish I could get hypnotized to help recall the years from childbirth until adoption.

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