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Book Review: Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them

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Book Review: Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them
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By Marjorie Taylor; 215 pages. Subtitle: A Fascinating Look at Imaginary Friends and What They Reveal About the Inner World of Children

Parents may not be concerned when very young children have invisible friends, but as kids get older concerns may grow. Does a school-age child with a pretend pal need psychological help? A preteen? A teen? Do imaginary companions ever occur in adulthood, and what do they mean? This book offers research on pretend playmates -- and reassuring conclusions.

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  • Presents research on imaginary companions.
  • Gives good overviews of variations and issues involved.
  • Descriptions and stories of kids and pals are charming.
  • Interpretations are offered in favor of imaginary friends being healthy.
  • Conclusions will be reassuring to parents of kids with invisible friends.


  • Research can also be interpreted in less optimistic ways.
  • Author seems to disregard research that doesn't agree with her conclusions.
  • No real advice for parents as to what to do, just discussion.
  • Parents who are truly concerned about their kids' pretend friends won't find much help here.
  • Your child may not fit any of the scenarios mentioned in the book.


  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: What Are Imaginary Companions Like?
  • Chapter 3: The Characteristics of Children Who Create Imaginary Companions
  • Chapter 4: Why Do Children Create Imaginary Companions
  • Chapter 5: Do Children Think Their Imaginary Companions Are Real?
  • Chapter 6: What Happens to the Imaginary Companions Created in Early Childhood
  • Chapter 7: Do Older Children and Adults Create Imaginary Companions
  • Chapter 8: Fantasy in the Lives of Children and Adults

Guide Review - Book Review: Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them

Scooby Doo is an ever-present member of our family. An invisible version of the big ghost-hunting dog is my son's constant companion, and we often hear the two of them having long conversations, discussing the issues of his day, my son's voice high-pitched and Scooby's lower and heavy on the Rs.

If my son was three or four or five years old, his friendship with Scooby would be cute. But he's 12. Should we be worried? Is this a sign of immaturity, loneliness, overimagination, mental illness? Should we try to make Scooby disappear for good? I picked up "Imaginary Companions" with the hope of some answers, and what I got was a lot of reassurance. While every child is different and my son's neurological impairments undoubtedly set him apart, author Taylor is firmly of the opinion that imaginary companions can be perfectly normal, safe and healthy at ages well past preschool.

The research that makes up the bulk of the book is fairly well skewed to that point of view, while studies that offer less upbeat conclusions are turned away. But hey, I'm okay with that. It's nice to hear good news, and delightful to read about so very many other imaginary friends out there, from pretend children to creatures of every kind. Many of those friends are abandoned from one day to the next, as their humans move on to different needs. Scooby will likely fade in a similar fashion, and I'll miss the big lug. But for now, I won't worry either way.

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