Can a child see a ghost

Fantastic beings have always populated the collective consciousness of humanity as goblins, ghosts and angels. They manifest themselves in fables, children's books as well as in fantastic films. But not only there.

In the minds of children, adolescents and sometimes even adults, imaginary beings can mature into astonishing reality. The craziest characters, born of nothing other than their own mind, are a close companion in everyday life for many, mostly young people.

"Imaginary companions" is what psychology calls those fantasy figures who are characterized by the fact that a person describes them, and even lives with them, as if they really existed. They are anything but real to other people.

These fantasy figures are by no means signs of a sick mind. In children in particular, they are the expression of a lively imagination that helps them to find their place in the world. All they need is time to play alone - in societies where children do not have this freedom, fictional companions rarely appear.

Surprisingly, imaginary companions are little explored in psychology to this day. Richard Passman and Espen Klausen from the University of Milwaukee, however, recently noted in an overview study in the specialist journal Journal of Genetic Psychology on, after 100 years and several false starts, this research direction is finally getting a firm footing.

It is mainly the three to seven year old children who live with the fantasy figures, psychologists have determined. Mostly the companions are people, but there are also superheroes, animals or magicians. The children talk and play with them, some of the companions fit in their pockets, others float.

Better communication skills

According to various studies, up to two thirds of all children live with such creations for a while. Fictional friends are apparently not uncommon among young people either. And although children sometimes insist that their parents set a place at the table for their imaginary companion, their sense of reality is generally not diminished.

In research, the position has developed over the past decade according to which imaginary cronies mark a positive development phase in the life of children.

The psychologist Marjorie Taylor from the University of Oregon was able to determine in several studies that the children affected form an idea of ​​the feelings and thoughts of their fellow men more quickly than their peers "living alone".

In addition, children with imaginary friends have significantly better communication skills, recognized psychologists Anna Roby and Evan Kidd from the University of Manchester last year.

There are other reasons why a child can get an invisible buddy, says developmental psychologist Inge Seiffge-Krenke from the University of Mainz. In this way, children sometimes live out fantasies of omnipotence.

Others compensate for loneliness - after all, the extraordinary friends are widespread among only children. And finally, the imaginary companions occasionally play the role of prompting angels and devils through whom the child learns to navigate a world full of prohibitions and commandments.