Forgotten Baby Syndrome Explains Why Parents Leave Kids in Hot Cars
On average 37 children die each year in hot cars. The news is riddled with stories of parents forgetting their children in a car, resulting in the child's death. These stories are met with the question, how does this happen? How can a parent forget their child in the car?
There are apps made to remind parents to check the back seat for their kids, signs on store doors, and parents are told to put something important like their cell phone or bag in the back seat as to see the child before they exit the vehicle. You would think that their child would be important enough to remember. However, now science is looking to answer the question as to why with what they are calling Forgotten Baby Syndrome.
USA Today reported on a study by David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. Diamond has worked with KidsAndCars.org, which is an organization whose mission it is to protect the lives of both children and pets in cars. Diamond believes the issue lies in a failure in the memory system in the brain.
According to the Diamond, "There's a system called "prospective memory," which involves the intent to remember to complete tasks out of your ordinary routine, he wrote. And then there's a system called "habit memory," which is akin to being on autopilot."
When the prospective memory fails, habit kicks in to compensate.
Janette Fennell, the founder of KidsAndCars.org, drew the comparison to forgetting coffee on the roof of your car.
While a child is much more important than a cup of coffee, the brain functions are the same.
ABC News also reported on this syndrome that Diamond has been researching since 2004. The article stated, "Under circumstances of sleep deprivation or stress, Diamond said that parents can default to repetitive actions. For example, a routine drive from home to work, instead of home to day care, is performed automatically, he explained."
This is also similar to when you are driving and end up heading to work or another familiar location you go to often by mistake. Your brain goes into autopilot. In today's society, we are bombarded by constant distractions that factor into this Forgotten Baby Syndrome.