Imagination is alive and thriving in the minds of Americas school-age children. It is so prevalent that 65 percent of children report that, by the age of 7, they have had an imaginary companion at some point in their lives, according to a new study by University of Washington and University of Oregon psychologists.
The research also indicates that having an imaginary companion is at least as common among school-age children as it is among preschoolers. Thirty-one percent of the school-age youngsters were playing with an imaginary companion when they were asked about such activity, compared with 28 percent of preschoolers. "This finding is fascinating in that it goes against so many theories of middle childhood, such as those proposed by Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget. Having an imaginary companion is normal for school-age children," said Stephanie Carlson, a UW assistant psychology professor.
Marjorie Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, and Carlson are the lead authors of the study published in the current issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.
The researchers also were curious to know why children stop playing with imaginary friends. "Imaginary companions are treated by children much in the same way as when they lose interest in toys or other activities," said Carlson. "In many cases they simply go away, or children dont remember. Other times children replace an old imaginary companion with a new one, or they go on to friendships with real kids to meet some of the same needs."
The researchers also looked at childhood impersonation – pretending to be an imaginary character – and found it to be almost universal. Virtually all preschoolers pretended to be an animal or another person and 95 percent of the school-age children engaged in impersonation. The researchers did not look at impersonation in the same detail as they did imaginary companions, and were surprised that so many school-age children continued to engage in the activity. One tantalizing finding was that school-age children who did little or no impersonation scored low on emotional understanding of other people, according to Carlson.
She said that fantasy – interacting with imaginary friends and impersonation – plays a role in child development, both cognitively and emotionally. This kind of activity allows children to manage social situations in a safe context, such as practicing how to handle conflict with something that may or may not talk back to them. Cognitively it helps them deal with abstract symbols and thought, which leads them to abstract thought about their own identity.
"Imaginary companions have had a bad rap from psychologists for a long time, and there was the perception that parents were getting the message that having an imaginary companion wasnt healthy," she said. "But this study shows that nearly two-thirds of children have them and the striking fact is that children of all personality styles have imaginary companions."
The University of Oregon funded the research. Co-authors of the study are former University of Oregon students Bayta Maring, Lynn Gerow and Carolyn Charley.
Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology