Would the parent of a child recognize that child as an adult?

Oddly-specific time-travel-related hypothetical question with no real answer:

Say some 20-30 year old human were to spontaneously develop the ability to travel through time. For some unimportant reason he decides to visit his 10-year-old self. Perhaps to tell him to buy some Apple stock as soon as possible, or to try to avoid the trend of pre-dirty jeans in the mid-00s.

For whatever reason, while visiting his 10-year-old self, our time traveler happens upon his parents.

He sees his parents and thinks, “Wow, it’s my parents… in the past.”

His parents see him and think, … what?

Would the parents immediately recognize the 20-30 year old as their currently 10-year-old son?

Would the parents think the guy looks kind of familiar… or maybe even very familiar, but not be able to place it?

Or would the parents not make the connection at all?

This is an entirely different situation from a parent having not seen their child since he was 10, and then seeing him when he’s 20-30. Then the age difference is expected.

Lets assume that the parents are obviously unaware of the possibility of time travel and have no immediate reason to suspect it has taken place.

Do they know the time traveler is their kid immediately, after some reflection, or not at all?

Both times it happened in my family, it was “no”.

That’s because you’re going to go back and warn them not to freak out and pretend everything is cool.


My mom has the amazing ability to recognize people I went to pre-school with and haven’t seen since. Myself, I’d probably have trouble recognizing my own mother out of context.

I doubt that a Great Debate is going to develop from this question.

Off to IMHO.

I think way more people believe that everyone has a twin out there than would leap to a wild guess like time travel.

At this point, we’ve been so heavily “vaccinated” by sci-fi that probably a great many people would accept time travel with little more than “it’s real?! Cool!”

We’re not talking about this point, we’re talking about the past. Before every third movie and every fourth TV drama series involved time travel.

I just wonder if it would be realistic for the parents to see a 10-20-year-older version of their kid and see the resemblance. The face goes through a lot of changes between 10 and 30.

Given that people were able to routinely pick my mother out of a crowd by knowing my face (and vice versa), I’m going to say yes.

I look so much like my mom that if she saw my future self she’d probably think I was a doppleganger and would immediately try to kill me.

Just going back 20 or 30 years? Pffft, we’re not talking the Triassic, here. Heck, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in 1987, 23 years ago, and it was hardly a bastion of sci-fi originality.

Yeah, I think I’d be more likely to say “You look just like my little girl, only grown up!” I mean, I know a little girl age 3 who is the dead spit of my cousin, but the first time I saw her I didn’t think it really was her.

I apparently do look a lot like my mom and people have always noted the resemblance, so I think my parents might note something. Not necessarily the passing out scene in Back to the Future II type thing (though that was a self recognition thing), but definitely, “Are you sure you’re not related? One of the Western Slits?”

Yea, I think that would be the most reasonable thing. People’s faces can change a lot as they age, but with genetics, they’re probably going to be at least some features that the parents have seen before, in themselves/each other, and other relatives. I don’t think any normal person would immediately think it was time travel.

I agree with everyone else on how it’d be perceived. See maybe when (animated) Spock goes back in time to save his younger self. People would just assume you were related. Heck, you wouldn’t even recognize yourself. And if younger you had made a trip to the future, you’d just think the kid was the “spitting image” of you when you were younger.

It wouldn’t matter if you went back in time just a couple of years: you’d still just think it was someone who looked exactly like you. Few people are going to assume what seems impossible. Occam’s razor, and all that.

Western Slit sounds dirty.

I think my parents would think I was one of my mom’s younger brothers. Likeness runs strong on both sides of my family.

In my family we change a lot as we grow into adulthood. I don’t look much like my sisters or brother. We morph at like 13. My kids would be hard to recognize. I would know my son by his resemblance to his dad and to my brother.

I surrendered a child to adoption as a teenager. When we were reunited she was 28yrs old. She had also attended university in the city where I live. She had lived here for 3yrs, working part time in a downtown mall, at a store I often visited. At the same time, I was working in several different bars and restaurants during that same time, which she may well have visited.

I would not have known her. I could easily have walked by her, in the street, and she says the same about me.

That said, people who meet her always comment on how much she looks like me. When I attended her wedding she told me, several people in the room, came to her and told her they did not even have to ask which woman was her birthmother as they could tell instantly.

Does this help? Or is it not quite the same thing, for you?

You should try celebrating Memorial Day weekend with them.

I thought this thread was going to be a bit more plausible, like a parent recognizing a long-lost/missing child years later. Kid gets kidnapped, parent runs into him/her 20 years later, yeah I think it’s possible, depending on how young the kid was to start.

In the case of my hypothetical kid standing next to an adult version of himself, I would not recognize the adult as the future kid, simply due to the implausbility. I’d probably think “Holy shit! Who are you?” with the assumption that it’s a family member I’d never met.

My baseball team was told to bring in childhood photos for a game in which you had to match the player to his first grade picture. It was actually really hard. Some people were incredibly obvious, but a couple were nearly impossible. Eg/ The blond Australian guy whose first grade photo looked like a Hispanic kid. And a couple where they were so young they all had round baby-fat faces that covered up some of their distinguishing features.