Ifs Influence On Child Development

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Svendsen has defined imaginary friends (IF’s) as “an invisible character, named and referred to in conversation with other persons or played with directly for a period of time…[has] an air of reality for the child but no apparent objective basis" (1934, cited in Markman et al., 2009). Interestingly, although research has reported that 65% of children have IFs (Singer and Singer, 1990, cited in Silberg, 2013) it is apparent that there is a lack of research into the effects they may have. In relation to surrounding literature it is evident that many researchers believe IFs do impact a child’s development, for example through social interactions and emotional support. It should be noted that some researchers refer to IF’s as companions (IC’s).

In 2013 Davis et al. investigated the relationship between children’s IC status and their amount of private speech during free play. Research was conducted with a large, socially diverse, and mixed gendered sample of children aged five. Private speech has been defined as “the self-directed speech that emerges during the preschool years, when children start to talk themselves through their activities” (Lidstone et al., 2011, p.1). The children had IC interviews to distinguish who had one and what they were like. In addition to this, the
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This links to the idea raised in Davies et al.’s research, in that IC’s can benefit a child’s emotional development. Enabling a child to express their feelings and explore personal issues will help them gain emotional competence. This is critical for, “basic readiness for learning, development of social relationships, acquisition of skills…context-appropriate behaviour” and enhancing independence (Blackstone et al., 2012). Therefore, IC’s not only benefit emotional development, but also work as a ripple effect benefiting the child’s cognitive and social
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