imaginary friends, imaginary friend, invisible friends, pretend friends, invisible friends, made-up friends | dengem

Children’s imaginary friends – causes and effects

Do you have questions about an appointment with a psychologist or dengem?

Telephone Germany: +49 6409 33 23 999
Telephone Switzerland: +41 41 588 10 15
Send message: Whatsapp
Contact form
Meet our psychologists now

dengem kontakt | dengem

What is an imaginary friend?

An imaginary friend is a character who exists in a child’s imagination and with whom they interact as if they were real. Having an invisible friend is a natural part of a child’s development. It helps children process their feelings, develop social skills and make sense of their world. It is a way for children to express their feelings and deal with situations they find themselves in, especially when they miss their real-life playmates or face certain problems.

For parents, the appearance of an imaginary friend in their child can be confusing or even frightening at first. They may wonder if this is normal or if their child is having trouble making real friends. However, it is important to realise that imaginary characters are a sign of a child’s emotional intelligence and imagination. In most cases, this is temporary and part of a healthy process of growth.

invisible friends, made-up friends | dengem

What are the reasons for having an imaginary friend?

There are many reasons why children have invisible friends, often related to the development of imagination and emotional intelligence. The main reasons are

  • Overprotective parents: Children who grow up in an overprotective environment may develop an imaginary friend as a form of self-assertion or to demonstrate independence. This may be a response to the restriction of independence in the child’s environment.
  • Children growing up alone: Lone children without constant playmates or siblings tend to create an invisible friend. This serves as a friend to satisfy the need for companionship and social interaction.
  • Exclusion by peers: Children who feel excluded or misunderstood by their peers often turn to an imaginary friend. This gives them a sense of security and understanding.
  • Understanding emotions and events: When children have difficulty expressing their feelings or understanding complex events, they may turn to an invisible friend. The invisible friend acts as a listener and confidant to whom the children can confide their feelings and thoughts.
  • Children’s need for autonomy and control: In an adult-controlled environment, an imaginary friend offers children autonomy and control over their own environment.
  • Sense of creativity: Children are naturally imaginative. For children with a high level of imagination and creativity, an invisible playmate can be another aspect of their imagination.
  • Social factors: The social aspect of children is very strong. However, if the opportunity to socialise is limited or non-existent, children may develop imaginary friendships.
  • Children who have experienced trauma such as divorce, moving house, unwanted school changes or bereavement may experience stress or trauma. In these situations they may call imaginary friends.

When do children begin to have invisible friends?

Imaginary friends usually appear in children between the ages of 2 and 3. This stage, when children start to make invisible friends, usually coincides with the development of their language skills and imagination.

Although the age at which invisible friends appear is usually pre-school, they can also appear in older children, especially up to the age of 7 or 8. However, it is important to remember that each child is unique and the development of invisible friends can vary from child to child.

imaginary friends, imaginary friend | dengem

Are imaginary friends dangerous?

In most cases, having imaginary friends is not dangerous and is considered a normal part of a child’s development. Imaginary friends can help children develop social skills and creativity. However, there are situations where parents should be cautious:

  • When a child loses touch with reality: If a child has difficulty distinguishing between the invisible friend and the real world, or if the imaginary friend becomes a dominant presence that distracts the child from real friendships and activities.
  • Negative effects: If the imaginary friend encourages the child to engage in dangerous or inappropriate behaviour, or if the child reports that the imaginary friend threatens or frightens them.
  • Social isolation: The child does not make real friends and instead relies solely on the imaginary friend.
  • Emotional problems: The invisible friend seems to be a sign of deeper emotional problems or trauma.

In such cases, it is advisable to consult a child psychologist or therapist to ensure that the child receives the necessary support.

What is the psychology of invisible friends?

The psychology behind invisible friends is actually quite simple. When children invent imaginary friends, it is usually because their imaginations are very active. They play with their invisible friends, talk to them and go on adventures with them, just as they would with their real friends. This is how they learn to interact with people and have someone to share their thoughts and feelings with.

In general, naming invisible friends is a normal and healthy part of how children grow up and make sense of the world. It shows that children’s imaginations are developing and that they are creative, and it helps them to cope with their feelings and life’s challenges.

imaginary friends, imaginary friend, | dengem

What kind of imaginary friends do children have?

The type of invisible friends children have depends on their imagination. So imaginary friends can take many forms, from human figures to animals to fantasy or fairy tale characters. Sometimes they can take different forms depending on the child’s imagination and interests.

What are the benefits of having an imaginary friend?

Invoking imaginary friends is often beneficial for children, as long as it doesn’t become dangerous. With this in mind, the benefits of imaginary friends in childhood are as follows

  • Children with imaginary friends provide support when they feel lonely. When the child spends time with their imaginary friend, their feelings of loneliness are reduced.
  • Children who play with their imaginary friend develop their ability to think creatively, write and make up stories.
  • Many children talk to their pretend friends. This also develops the child’s social skills. In other words, the child can use the skills learned with their imaginary friend when playing with their real friends.
  • Communication with imaginary friends has a positive effect on the development of the child’s emotional skills. In other words, the child can tell their imaginary friends what they cannot tell their parents or other people. In this way, they learn to express their own feelings and thoughts effectively.
nvisible friends, made-up friends | dengem

How should parents deal with their children?

It is quite possible for parents to encounter invisible friends with their children. In such cases, they should try to understand the feelings and movements that the imaginary friend reflects.

This is because parents who do not understand their child’s feelings and do not help them will prevent the child from turning to their parents when they need them in the future. This situation leads the child to believe that they are only loved because of their positive behaviour. It is therefore recommended that parents do not reject the invisible friend. The imaginary friend is an important key to understanding the child’s problems.

When should parents seek help?

If the child’s imaginary friend persists beyond the age of seven, if the child avoids communicating with other children, if the child avoids things in the real world and spends time with the invisible friend, and if the child’s daily life is negatively affected, professional help should be sought.

Take care of your soul with dengem, because you are important to us.


  • Imaginary Companionships in Childhood and Their Impacts on Child Development,  Z. Akpakir 2021