The bully in my mind: investigating children's negative relationships with imaginary companions

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University of Alabama Libraries

Although research has explored the social environments in which imaginary friends are created and their benefits to socioemotional development, no work has specifically explored the role of children's negative interactions with imaginary companions and whether they also provide benefits to socioemotional development. The present study explored the role of these interactions in regards to children's socioemotional development. One hundred seven children between the ages of 3 and 8 were interviewed about their imaginary companions and social skills, with teacher and parent reports on the target child. It was hypothesized that having an imaginary companion--regardless of whether the relationship is negative--is beneficial to socioemotional development because it allows the child to role-play and practice taking different perspectives. However, results suggest that the relationship valence (positive or negative), regardless of friend type (real or imaginary) is most important in terms of socioemotional development. Children with negative relationships had lower overall social competence scores than children with positive relationships.

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Developmental psychology