Imaginary Companions: Contributions to Child Development

Abstract The creation of imaginary companions is a frequent manifestation of pretend play in childhood, which has been little explored in psychological literature. The goal of the present research was to investigate the relation between this phenomenon and language and social cognitive development. Forty children between 6 and 7 years of age (18 with imaginary companions and 22 without) were assessed by theory-of-mind, emotion understanding and vocabulary measures, as well as by interviews exploring engagement in fantasy. An interview on children’s fantasy experiences was conducted with 11 parents/caretakers. Results suggest that the phenomenon is associated with a more developed receptive vocabulary and is not indicative of deficits in social cognitive development.