Are imaginary friends really that good? (Post 5)

When you think about your childhood you may remember it being filled with fond memories of Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or your imaginary friend; but really, how beneficial was it to you to have those ‘characters’ in your life? The reason given by most professionals that imaginary friends are good, is the imagination created by children; but really that’s a bogus reason. When children learn that they can do whatever they want, and break their parent’s rules, and then just blame it on their ‘friend’, it isn’t teaching them to be creative, but to LIE. Yes it’s a lie, no matter what way you word it, they are learning to lie, it isn’t teaching them anything beneficial.

Often when children believe in something fake, like an imaginary friend, or the holiday characters they aren’t learningto be creative; but being held back from learning how to be socially and emotionally well. If it is true that most children have imaginary friends and it helps in their adulthood with creativity, where are all these adults that have been influenced positively from their childhood creation?

I don’t feel that whatever way you try to make it out to be, that it’s a good thing for a child to have a personal scape goat, rather than learning in the real world or interacting with real children.

“I can see no good coming from a child having an imaginary friend. Why not teach them to have real friends and develop real friendships among actual children in their age groups? To isolate a child from having real friends will tend to retard their psychological and emotional growth. Teaching them that imaginary friends are good to have will only compound the isolation effects. (McGee)”

McGee, June. Are imaginary friends good for children?

-Becky Knoblauch Smart


~ by Becky Knoblauch Smart on October 23, 2009.

10 Responses to “Are imaginary friends really that good? (Post 5)”

  1. I think that on the extreme end that those effects are probably completely true. When a child does not take responsibility for anything and they are not making friends because they have an imaginary one to play with, I can not imagine that would be good in the long run. However, I think that having an imaginary friend definitely could foster imagination, when they are still developing social skills along side of it.
    Rebekah Pinegar

    • If you look closely at ANY and ALL research done showing the positive effects of having an imaginary friend, the studies show that the child has increased verbal and cognitive skills; but compared to what? If you notice they never compare it to children that have real life friends, because in no way does the imaginary friend increase the childs skills more than a child interactin and working through complex situations with another real child. While I am not arguing that a child who has an imaginary firend can’t have verbal skills; I am arguing that in no way does the child have a bigger jump on his other fellow age group that play with other real life children. Also, in the studies that have been done, they say things like in adulthood the child will be more creative… what study was done to prove that? There has never been a full time study that followed children who has imaginary friends through their life into adulthood to prove this fact… they are simply going off of non-documented opinions.

      While I don’t agree that a child who has an imaginary friend is in any way better ‘shape’ than a child who plays with a real child; but I would argue that an imaginary friend halters the social aspect of the child, which isn’t good. A child who plays with an imaginary friend is only using his abilities to create or ‘increase’ his skills; while a child who plays with another child and imagines different scenarios with that other child will have a bigger increase in their brain development and verbal skills… Why? Simply put, they must take into considerations the other childs imagination, their own, and then act accordingly… increasing verbal, mental and social skills. Better than an imaginary friend…

  2. I disagree completely. Yes, a child having an imaginary friend may be annoying for some parents, but it does have its benefits. “It is believed that children with imaginary friends are actually very creative and they often have better verbal skills than children that do not have these friends” (Oliveri). Also, a child’s imaginary friend may provide entertainment for him or her when the parent isn’t available. Just because an imaginary friend may often take the blame for the child’s behavior does not make it a bad thing. Simply reinforce responsibility to the child and suggest that the friend help clean up the spilt milk or messy room.

  3. So, did you find some research on the other end or are you simply stating your own opinion from your own experiences? I think that being narrow minded on one side of the picture can cause problems and generally leads to problems. It is important to consider the good and the bad, find a balance between the two. Is over eating good? No. however, it is acceptable to eat a large meal now and then, as well as sitting down for 3 hours is not good, but watching a movie once or twice a week makes is okay and is not overdoing it. As much as my personal opinion goes against yours, I am trying to point out other points and that there is research that supports both sides and between of children with imaginary friends, perhaps a realistic balance would be sufficient…


  4. Well the start of my post was opinion while using research to back it up. It isn’t narrow mindedness; rather, a belief in research that goes with my reasoning, and a lot of experience with children and their interactings in the world.

    However, as you stated in your post Rueben, there is no moderation when it comes to a child thinking they have an imaginary friend. Once they think they have this ‘friend’ they have it till they grow out of it.

    -Becky Smart

  5. Sorry! The second comment is mine.

    Marissa Hayes

  6. So your saying that an adult or caregiver can not manipulate a child? I will not argue with your experience or sources based on your post, however I do want to question your second paragraph in your response to my comment. So are you saying that a child who believes in “santa clause” or “the toothferry” or that even more importantly, that they have a little village in their room with their stuffed animals being the imaginary character, or for a girl to have a tea set with imaginary guests is bad?, so your saying that’s all bad in regards to their development? According to a Seattle Newspaper (or maybe it was a readers magazine..) it said, In fact, “previous studies have shown that kids who invent imaginary friends — whether invisible beings or personified toys — tend to have better verbal skills and better social understanding. But a lack of such pals is OK, too.” Now obviously an invisible friend that justifies a kid not getting in troubled is “bad” but could you please tell me, do you think that kids can’t be manipulated to think differently? I think not, according to many researchers, they think not, and obviously there will always be 2 sides. However, please tell me why kids with positive imaginary friends are at such risk to whatever you feel may be of risk, I struggle to see your point and or grasp what exactly it is that you are arguing that is bad, besides the obvious bad which I hope you do not elaborate in your response to this this you already have.


  7. Ok, I’m going to try this again since my last long post was deleted when I hit submit. Anyway;
    I’m not going to argue that your wrong based on your research finding or beliefs, however I will argue your second paragraph of your response to my comment. So are you saying that it is BAD for a child to believe in “santa clause” or “the toothferry” or even more importantly, make believe their is a village in their room with all their stuffed animals being characters, or a little girls tea set with imaginary characters there? Are you saying that this is bad for their development? On top of that, are you saying that a kid is not able to be manipulated and that no matter what the imaginary friend, they will not be convinced of them being anything else besides how they imagine them to be? According to one source I found in a Seattle Newspaper article, it said, “In fact, previous studies have shown that kids who invent imaginary friends — whether invisible beings or personified toys — tend to have better verbal skills and better social understanding. But a lack of such pals is OK, too.” Many other article also support this, but their will always be other sides that support yours of course. However, I struggle to see your point and belief on how this could be so bad for development and how a kid can not be guided in the direction that will be for their benefit while maintaining positive imaginary friends. Granted, an imaginary friend to get the kid out of trouble is obviously bad. Please tell me how their is a lack of positive development when a kid is working through cognitive complex problems with their imaginary buddy. I will leave it at that even though I feel like their is another point that I brought up in my deleted response that I’ll just have to bring up later.


  8. Around 60% of children have at least one imaginary friend. These children tend to be the first born or they are only children, these imaginary friends may come out of necessity for development and communication until the child can join a larger peer group.

  9. This is a very interesting discussion – I like the many viewpoints represented here. This is just one example of how many different aspects of child development (and anything) can have research backing up the pros and cons of different things.

    The challenge is weeding out the unreliable sources. There isn’t always a “right” answer — while there are some crazy researchers out there, sometimes there are valid findings backing up opposing theories.

    When this happens in the field of child development, we have to decide what works best in OUR family, community, and culture.

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