Around our house we try to keep our kids from having imaginary companions. I think they are associated with the devil and it would be very bad if they had imaginary companions. I try to emphasize that imaginary companions are bad so he doesn't have an imaginary companion.
This quote is from a mother who participated in our research investigating the role of imaginary companions in children's lives. In this work, an imaginary companion was defined as a vivid imaginary character (person, animal) with whom a child interacts during his/her play and daily activities. The extremely negative remarks of a few parents, who, like the mother quoted above, identified themselves as fundamentalist Christians, stand in marked contrast to the positive view of imaginary companions expressed by most middle-class American parents (Manosevitz, Fling, & Prentice, 1977; Mauro, 1991) and developmental psychologists. Although in the past some researchers have voiced concerns about children who regularly play with imaginary companions (Ames & Learned, 1946), recent research evidence associates having an imaginary companion with a variety of positive attributes, such as the ability to take the perspective of another person (Taylor & Carlson, 1997) and get along well with others (Singer & Singer, 1990), participation in family activities (Manosevitz, Prentice, & Wilson, 1973), and literary creativity (Schaefer, 1969; for a review see Taylor, 1999). More generally, children's capacity to pretend has been linked to a wide range of social and cognitive skills, including language development (Ervin-Tripp, 1991), social competence (Singer & Singer, 1990), memory development (Newman, 1990), exploration and mastery of emotional themes (Bretherton, 1989), and logical reasoning (Dias & Harris, 1990).