Topic #25 Why parents forget their child in the car?
One of the most talked about topics on the news and in our community is the unthinkable question about how parents can forget about their child in the car. For parents especially, the idea of leaving a child in a car for hours is overwhelming and painstaking to imagine. Yet it has already happened about 17 times just this year alone. Are these “bad” parents or is there something more sinister going on here… a murder plot perhaps? But what about those “good” parents who genuinely forgot their child in the car on their way to work or the mall. These parents have to live with profound remorse, guilt and pain for the rest of their lives.
David Diamond, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology and the University of South Florida and a frequent consultant on Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS) court cases. He is an expert on FBS. Dr. Diamond’s research pinpoints a few interesting brain facts. He uses data collected from http://www.kidsandcars.org/ – a great website for anyone interested in the health and safety of kids and cars. Here is a glimpse into what he has learned about our brain, memory and routine. For the full article, please click HERE.
“FBS is a failure of prospective memory, which refers to the planning and execution of an action in the future. Prospective memory is processed by two brain structures: The hippocampus, which stores new information, and the prefrontal cortex, which enables us to plan for the future. It is the hippocampus that processes that a child is in the car, while the prefrontal cortex enables a parent to plan the route, including a change in plans to go to daycare rather than straight to work. FBS appears to involve a clash between prospective memory and another form of memory, referred to as habit memory. Habit memory is formed subconsciously through repeated activities, such as learning how to ride a bike or, in the case of FBS, repeatedly driving to and from home and work. Habit-based memories are stored in a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, which enables people to drive to work in “auto-pilot” mode, requiring minimal conscious effort. The prospective and habit brain memory systems compete against each other on a regular basis. For example, a person places a cup of soda on the car roof (prospective memory), removes keys from his pocket and drives off (habit memory), leaving the cup on the roof. In another common example, a person intends to stop at the store on the way home from work but drives right past the store to arrive home without groceries. In each case, the prospective memory system fails to remind the person of a change in routine as the habit-based memory system imposes its will to accomplish well-established tasks.”
It’s not an excuse to say, “My brain did it” but it helps to explain how these tragic accidents can occur to good families. It’s easy to judge or criticize another’s failures. Try instead to learn from their mistakes and be more conscious about your daily routine and when your routine changes, especially when kids (or pets) are involved. Please be aware of those changes for everyone’s sake. Planning and prevention are always key.