Department

Psychology

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Imaginary companions (ICs) are purported to bolster children’s coping and self-competence, but few studies address this claim. We expected having/not having ICs would distinguish children’s coping strategies and competence less than type of companion (i.e., personified object or invisible friend) or quality of child-IC relationship (i.e., egalitarian or hierarchical). We interviewed 72 3- to 6-year-olds and their mothers about children’s coping strategies and competence; teachers rated competence. Mothers reported ICs. IC presence and type did not differentiate coping strategies, but children with egalitarian relationships chose more constructive/prosocial coping strategies, and teachers rated them more socially competent than children with hierarchical child-IC relationships. Mothers related ICs to cognitive competence. Findings highlight (a) modest relations between imaginary relationships and coping/competence, (b) distinctions between mothers’ perceptions and IC functions, and (c) that ICs parallel real relationships in that different dimensions (presence, type/identity, and relationship quality) might be unique contributors to children’s socioemotional development.

Comments

Published version appears in: Social Development. Nov 2014, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p 820-839. 20p. DOI: 10.1111/sode.12078

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