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Title: An investigation into parents' attitudes to their children having imaginary companions
Author: Sugarman, Sophie
Awarding Body: Institute of Education (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Imaginary companions (ICs) are a relatively common feature of childhood, yet the views of parents regarding their children's creation of and engagement with ICs are relatively unexplored. This study explored the attitudes of parents towards ICs and the factors that relate to variation in views. This study is comprised of two phases. Phase 1 examined the views of mothers and fathers of primary school aged children using a self-completion questionnaire. 228 mothers and 31 fathers participated. Of these 259 parents, 63 had a child with a current or previous IC and 196 had a child without an IC. Phase 2 further examined the views of 12 mothers who had all experienced the phenomenon with their children, using semi-structured interviews. Results indicated that in general, parents held mainly positive or neutral views of ICs. They perceived there to be both advantages and disadvantages for their child, they had some concerns, and would be most inclined to ignore the behaviour. Context was found to also relate to the views of parents, and they would be more inclined to join in with the pretence in private than in public. Experience of ICs was associated with the views of parents, and parents with experience of ICs consistently reported more positive views for all attitudes measured. Child age was also found to impact on the views of parents, who were all less accepting of their children's ICs with increasing child age. It was hypothesised that parents' views may therefore play a part in older children keeping their ICs a secret from others. Furthermore, religious affiliation was also found to result in some variation in parent views. Mothers interviewed all expressed positive views of their children's IC, identifying a number of developmental benefits afforded to the child and identifying their experience to have been positive, thus positively shaping their views of ICs. Their positive views were however found to be conditional upon a number of factors, including the age of the child, the IC being used appropriately, and there being no negative social impact. Whilst the mothers had few concerns for young children with ICs, their concern was found to grow with increasing child age and the prospect of the IC not disappearing after middle childhood. The implications of the study for educational psychology, education and childcare professionals are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Phys.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology and Human Development