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Studying Historical information on imaginary friends is scarce, in part because childhood as we know it is a relatively recent idea.
“The view of childhood as a time for growth and development did not evolve before the 19.
Over the past several decades, as Science Friday also recently documented in a series of episodes on the subject, researchers have established imaginary friendship as perhaps psychology’s most delightful area of study.
And perhaps more importantly, they’ve discovered that having an imaginary companion isn’t abnormal or unusual – and living in an imaginary world might even help kids develop valuable skills for the real one.
Once the imaginary friend of Riley, the girl whose mind plays host to all the movie’s action, he spends his days deep in the recesses of her memory, mostly forgotten but willfully believing that she’ll call him up again oneday. ) eventually disappears completely, in the most heart-wrenching death Pixar could have possibly dreamed up.
Until relatively recently, though, the loss of an imaginary friend wouldn’t be considered something worth mourning.
“Because so few sources are available, early conceptions regarding pretend companions are sketchy.” And it’s difficult to determine which of those early conceptions can be translated into modern terms — in earlier periods, children’s (and adults’) imaginary friends may have been described as spiritual or supernatural entities, like demons or guardian angels.
Today, cultural factors may influence how and how many kids bond with imaginary figures.
First of all, they’re incredibly common — by some estimates, 65 per cent of kids have had an imaginary friend by age 7.And kids they aren’t real; researchers today believe these made-up companions aren’t an indication of loneliness or a deficit of social skills so much as they are a normal way for kids to exercise their imaginations.In fact, the ability to create characters can begin in infancy, as babies learn to imitate the traits of those around them.“A lot of children take an object and they give it a personality, they give it a character, they talk to it, they listen to what it has to say,” Taylor says.
“And I wouldn’t want to say those kids aren’t interacting with an imaginary friend.” (But, she adds, the object’s character has to be fixed — if a child gives a single teddy bear multiple personalities depending on the situation, it doesn’t qualify as an imaginary friend.) Meanwhile, a small 2000 study of 78 preschoolers found evidence for key differences between the two types: Children with invisible friends were more likely to treat them as they would real friends, while kids who personified real objects tended to take on more of a nurturer role.Any relationship that exists in the real world, in other words, is fair game.One challenge in studying imaginary friends, though, is that it’s hard to know if the concept has always been a part of the earliest years of life.“If a mother raises her eyebrows and puffs out her cheeks to make funny faces, pretty soon a baby can imitate this in a playful way,” Yale psychologist Dorothy Singer, who pioneered imaginary-friend research in the 20interview.