Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Tracy Gleason


Creating imaginary companions (ICs) is a common occurrence in early childhood. However, how often ICs are remembered beyond early childhood and what factors might influence that memory is an open question. Similarly, although having an IC in early childhood is associated with greater social ability; whether fantasy orientation is related to social ability later in life is unknown. I interviewed adolescents who participated in a study about ICs when they were preschoolers about their memories of those ICs. I predicted that the age at which a child created an IC, the duration of that IC, family support of the companion and the presence of a notable event related to the IC would influence whether adolescents remembered having an IC. I hypothesized that family support of an IC could be a proxy for family support of fantasy and that support of fantasy would be positively associated with fantasy orientation in adolescence. I also hypothesized that current fantasy orientation would be positively associated with Theory of Mind ability. About half of the adolescents interviewed remembered their childhood IC. Duration was positively associated with memory for ICs, while family support of an IC was marginally associated with memory. Neither family support nor having a notable event related to an IC was associated with adolescent fantasy orientation. Fantasy orientation and Theory of Mind ability were not correlated. The findings of this study suggest that many people do not remember their ICs from early childhood, but that longer duration and familial rehearsal may support recollection. In addition, the connection between fantasy and imaginative play and social ability seen in early childhood does not appear to persist into adolescence.

Available for download on Sunday, April 22, 2018