Can children remember past lives? Exploring reincarnation

  • Reincarnation is defined as "rebirth in new bodies or forms of life."
  • About one-fourth of adults believe in some form of reincarnation. 
  • Parents of children who claim to be reincarnated are advised to approach the topic gently. 

Do you believe in reincarnation? What part does a child play in remembering? 

The theory that children, who claimed to have been reincarnated, have been floating around for decades. 

Child psychiatrist  Dr. Jim Tucker has explored the subject. 

"I understand the leap it takes to conclude there is something beyond what we can see and touch," he told Virginia Magazine in 2013. "But there is this evidence here that needs to be accounted for, and when we look at these cases carefully, some sort of carry-over of memories often makes the most sense."

Tucker said there are more than 2,500 case studies of children claiming to be reincarnated. 

The case of James Leininger, who claims to be a reincarnated World War II fighter pilot

Some stories have been highlighted, such as the case involving James Leininger. 

In 2005, when James Leininger was 6 years old, he claimed that he was a reincarnated Navy World War II fighter pilot. He even claimed he was involved in a plane crash.

"I'd wake him up, and he'd be screaming," his mother told ABC News in 2005. The mother said when she asked her son what he was dreaming about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out."

As the nightmares persisted, Leininger's parents eventually exchanged their skepticism for belief, and continue to believe their son had a former life, sharing their story in a book

What is reincarnation?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, reincarnation is defined as "rebirth in new bodies or forms of life."

What should parents do when children talk about reincarnation? 

A Pew research study showed about "one-quarter of adults say it is definitely or probably true that the dead can be reincarnated, with Catholics and members of historically Black Protestant churches are among the most likely to believe it is definitely or probably true."

The University of Virginia said parents of children who claim to remember their past lives may make statements such as, You’re not my mommy/daddy," ""That happened before I was in mommy’s tummy," or "I died … (in a car accident/after I fell, etc.)."

Parents are advised not to dismiss their child's claims as a symptom of mental illness, and they should also avoid asking pointed questions. Instead, they should encourage their child to elaborate more on the claims of remembering their past lives. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.