Affiliations: The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA | St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX, USA
Note:  Address for correspondence: Melissa A. McInnis, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA. E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: Little research has explored valence and autonomy in children's imaginary relationships. In the present study, a new interview (modeled after an existing measure for real relationships) was designed to elicit descriptions of both positive and negative interactions with imaginary companions and to provide a measure of relationship valence and autonomy. Children (n = 107) aged 3 to 8 were interviewed about their relationships with real or imaginary friends. Results indicated that (1) the valence of imaginary relationships falls along a continuum, (2) children sometimes view their imaginary companions as autonomous and in control of the imaginary relationship (especially when this relationship is not positively valenced), and (3) young children and those in less positive relationships (real or imaginary) were more likely to report that they could make their friend be nice to them.
Keywords: Imaginary companions, relationship quality, fantasy/reality, conceptual development