View Full Version : Most Younger Children Have Imaginary Friends

12-12-04, 05:37
Linkage (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=594&e=3&u=/nm/20041210/hl_nm/imaginary_friends_dc)

By Alison McCook

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Approximately 65 percent of young children befriend imaginary companions, and nearly one-third continue to play with them through age 7, new research shows.

Also, although many believe children outgrow imaginary friends early in life, school-aged children were just as likely to have pretend companions as preschool kids.

"It turns out that this is very common," study author Dr. Marjorie Taylor of the University of Oregon in Eugene told Reuters Health.

Taylor explained that imaginary friends can serve as "powerful tools" for young children, helping them deal with boredom, talk about things that are troubling them, and explore whatever issues have emerged in their lives.

Imaginary friends eventually disappear because, as with other toys, children likely lose interest, Taylor noted. However, one German study found that many 14- and 15-year olds write about imaginary friends in diaries, suggesting that the invisible companions stick around for longer than some might imagine, she said.

And even in adulthood, people's lives include traces of imaginary friends -- such as when they become overly interested in characters from books or movies, Taylor said.

Several years ago, Taylor and her colleagues interviewed 152 children 3 and 4 years old and their parents about imaginary friends. An average of 3 years later, they re-contacted the same group of kids, to ask again about imaginary friends.

They found that 65 percent of children said they had at least one imaginary friend at some point in their childhood. Not all companions were human -- some children said their friends were a squirrel, a panther, or a tiny elephant, for instance.

In preschool, girls were more likely to have imaginary friends, but by the age of 7, the trend was as common in boys, the authors report in the journal Developmental Psychology.

In an interview, Taylor explained that different parents react differently to their children's imaginary friends. Some are delighted and encourage the habit, she said, while others worry that it means their children can't make "real" friends.

"We consider it to be healthy," she said.

Children with and without imaginary friends are generally the same, Taylor noted, but she has found that those with pretend companions tend to be better at seeing things from other people's perspective.

More than one-quarter of children had friends their parents did not know about, Taylor said, likely because parents may not realize their children have invisible companions, and perhaps because some children sense their parents would not approve.

More than 40 percent of companions were animals, understandable given that children love animals, Taylor said, and these are often given special qualities.

"If you're a little person, walking down the street, it's nice to have a tiger by your side," Taylor said.

SOURCE: Developmental Psychology, November 2004.

12-12-04, 05:39
I used to play with a stuffed Raccoon.

12-12-04, 11:00
Imaginary friends are not imaginary, you just lose the ability to quantify their existance as you grow to believe they do not exist.

12-12-04, 12:29
I never had an imaginary friend as a child. I had a lot of real ones :D

Another thing I noticed (maybe due to movie clichees) is that children from USA always have imaginary friends while children from anywhere else rarely do (the only non-American kid having an imaginary friend is the little French girl from the book "Chocolat" - but wait, an American wrote that book!). Maybe it's media influence...

[ 12. December 2004, 12:33: Message edited by: Catlantean ]