Ok, so for all my craziness, I did not have imaginary friends when I was a kid. But perhaps I should have. Why? Parents may worry about children having imaginary friends, but researchers now say these friends are really teaching kids the art of communication.
Dr Kidd, a La Trobe University psychologist, and Ms Anna Roby, a University of Manchester colleague, asked children aged from four to six to describe pictures in a book. They found that those with imaginary friends proved to be "significantly" better communicators than children who did not.
“That made sense”, Dr Kidd said. To communicate information to another person, "you have to understand what they need to know". Having an imaginary friend allows you to practice that. Indeed, the child has to invent "both sides of the conversation".
Dr Kidd said children with imaginary friends were not lonely misfits. "They are highly socially interactive. They tend to be highly socially resourceful and, I guess, creative."
On thing that often bothers the parents is that they think children could not tell the difference between real and fantasy friends. However, this is a myth. Some in the study had totally imaginary friends, while others gave life to objects. But many would readily admit: "It’s not true, you know. It’s only pretend."
Dr Kidd therefore advised parents of children with fantasy friends "to enjoy it. My worry is that people try to hide it."