Dr. Tracy Gleason on imaginary friends

“Sini” is a baby alligator. Since all babies are girls (according to her 3-year-old female creator), Sini started as a girl but has since sometimes been a boy.

My own research has suggested that the importance of pretend friends is not the imagery or form associated with them, or even the fondness of children with imaginary companions for imaginative activities in general. Instead, for many if not most children, imaginary companions exist as a forum for the creation of a relationship and all the joys that come from interpersonal contact. Children use their imaginary companions to address social concerns and to understand others’ perspectives. Imaginary companions are associated with the benefits of real relationships, such as emotional support, validation, and affection. In fact, imaginary companions may assist children in learning to regulate their affect by helping them experience negative emotions such as disappointment, sadness, and anger in a context without retribution or recrimination. Similarly, imaginary companions are often a source of joy and comfort, and can even provide a person to nurture.

–Excerpt from Dr. Tracy Gleason’s “Invisible Friends: the creation of imaginary companions in childhood and beyond.” Issue 6, Visions. Learn how you can read the full article in GLIMPSE’S Visions issue at www.glimpsejournal.com.

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