Most people develop a sort of amnesia about the events of their early childhood. Before the age of 4, most people’s memory is spotty at best. According to research, the events that stick best in the memory are ones where a parent helps the child shape events into a meaningful story. That insight is the key to approaching the early childhood memories of an interview subject.
Discussing a person’s early years involves a certain amount of facts and dates. Once you pass the preliminary information, try asking about the stories that parents and friends told about when the subject was little. Parents tend to have a number of stories about when their children were little and generally repeat them. These are the stories that anchor the details a person will remember from their childhood.
As your subject recalls a story told about them, listen for interesting details about people and places that you can ask about in a follow-up question.
What are your favorite questions and techniques for interviewing people about their childhood memories? Leave a comment below and share.