More on imaginary friends

Two-thirds of school-age children have an imaginary friend

Two things that are startling to me about this story: first, that the researchers were startled–they thought imaginary friends were more of a pre-school thing, given up by grade school. Which tells me these researchers, in spite of studying children, don’t remember being children.

Second, that apparently for a long time in child psychology circles, imaginary friends have been considered a harmful thing. I honestly hadn’t known child professionals ever considered imaginary friends anything but perfectly ordinary, so long as they’re not telling their human companions to do anything awful. The fact that adults might consider imaginaries a bad think leads to all sorts of visions of therapists working to get kids to give up their imaginary friends, which I find a chilling thought. My imaginary friends helped me through enough hard times — the idea that an adult might have tried to deprive me of them, either in a clinical setting or because they were some random adult friend might have heard this accepted wisdom, is infuriating. And highlights once again how lucky I was to mostly have the right adults in my life.

Other interesting things: preschoolers tend to attach imaginary friends to physical objects; grade school kids tend to have invisible imaginary friends. And playacting–taking on the persona of an imaginary being–is nearly universal even among those kids who don’t have actual imaginary friends.

And a stray thought: if these results are surprising, I bet they’d be really surprised if they interviewed middle school and high school students, in a way that encouraged honest answers. Because while the numbers would probably go way down, I suspect more older kids hang on to their imaginary friends, in some form at least, than they think, too.

(Link from lnhammer)

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