Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Imaginary Friends Part I: And Then There Were Two

An imaginary companion is a fantasy friend most likely forged as a result of a need and a stimulating imagination. Many times a lonely or only child will create a fantasy friend. Although the relationship between the child and his or her fantasy friend is imagined, it is a relationship indeed. And during this relationship, children are able to practice their social skills.

Coetzee and Shute (2003) found that most children in their study regarded themselves as more adept than their imaginary counterparts. I wonder if it is because children know they are the creators of their fantasy friends. They know it is only make-believe. Stephanie Carlson’s experience during her research on imaginary friends lends credibility to this. The studies involved researchers asking children analytical questions about their fantasy friends. Carlson reported, "I've had several children sort of pull me aside during the interview and say, 'You know it's pretend, right?'” (as cited in Goodnow, 2005, p. C5).

My daughter, who is the oldest of my children, created an imaginary friend when she was about 2 ½ years old. The imaginary friend served as her playmate and scapegoat until her brother was born a year later. When I look back, I am reminded of the cute little table and chair set my husband and I bought her when she was 2 years old—one table and two chairs—there’s no wonder she invited a friend to sit and play with her. My daughter and Galonda’s bedtime conversations were filled with whispers and giggles until “they” fell asleep. 

So, imaginary friends are birthed out of one’s imagination; therefore, it is all in one’s head--

or is it?

In Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Dicks tells a story from an imaginary friend’s point of view. Although Budo was created by Max, Budo develops his own thoughts and feelings along the way. He’s even grateful for Max’s judicious imagination. After all, his body mimics that of a human’s--unlike many other imaginary friends whose body parts are anatomically incorrect. 

That same perspective was taken in the short film Imaginary Friend. Paul takes on a life of his own as he expresses frustration and disappointment when his creator blames him for something he did not do and ultimately even denies Paul’s very existence.

Creating a fantasy friend may improve social skills, creativity, and problem-solving. Although there's a self-help website that offers step-by-step directions on how to make your own fantasy friend, you don't have to resort to such desperate measures. Researcher Marjorie Taylor (Goodnow, 2005) asserts that if you didn't have a fantasy friend, it's alright. You can hone your creativity in other ways.

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were growing up? If so, what would your imaginary friend write about you? This is the story in you. Share it.


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Coetzee, H. & Shute, R. (2003). I run faster than him because I have faster shoes: Perceptions of competence and gender role stereotyping in children’s imaginary friends. Child Study Journal 33(4). 257-272. EBSCOhost Database.
Goodnow, C. (2005, January 18)Imagine that! pp. C1, C 4. Pittsburgh Post. Retrieved from,3019974 

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