Prevalence of imaginary companions among Chinese children aged 4 to 6 years

Qiyi Lin1, Nan Zhou2, Hong Fu3
1School of Education Science, Huaiyin Normal University, and School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, People’s Republic of China
2School of Nursing and Midwifery, Jiangsu College of Nursing, People’s Republic of China
3School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, People’s Republic of China
Cite this article:  Lin, Q., Zhou, N., & Fu, H. (2020). Prevalence of imaginary companions among Chinese children aged 4 to 6 years. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 48(3), e8845.

Volume 48 Issue 3 | e8845 | Published: March 2020 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.8845

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We investigated the prevalence of Chinese children’s imaginary companions (ICs) and the internal variables of IC types (personified object or invisible friend) and child–IC relationship qualities (egalitarian or hierarchical child–IC relationship). Participants were 266 children aged 4 to 6 years. Only in the 5-year-old group was the proportion of children with ICs significantly higher among girls than among boys, implying that the relationship between gender and IC was not consistent across age groups. Children from families in the highest annual income group engaged in more IC play than did children from families in the lowest annual income group, indicating a relationship between family socioeconomic environment and children’s imaginary play. IC types were not associated with child–IC relationship qualities in any of the age groups, implying that these qualities may represent different dimensions of IC play as early as 4 years old.

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