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Children's imaginary companions and the purposes they serve : an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Majors, Karen; (2009) Children's imaginary companions and the purposes they serve : an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Abstract The aims of this research were to explore the characteristics and purposes served by imaginary companions (ICs) featuring in the lives of children from a normative sample, as this has rarely been investigated. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with two samples. The first study comprised of five children including both girls and boys aged between five and ten years of age. The second study involved a sample of girls who were homogeneous by age, (eleven years), gender (female) and ethnicity (White, British). A feature of both studies was to explore all the imaginary companions, both current and previous, that each child had had over time. The data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore individual and cross case themes. Whilst children acknowledged their imaginary status, the companions presented as real to the children, and particular characteristics of the ICs and features of the child's interaction with their imaginary companions served to foster this illusion. Qualities and characteristics of animal and human imaginary companions were mostly positive. A number of ICs had unfriendly characteristics, though these mostly served a positive purpose for the child. All children were able to say why their imaginary companions were important and special. Some children were able to explain how their ICs met their needs and a range of purposes served were identified. Some children had more than one current imaginary companion (IC) with each IC meeting different needs. Imaginary companions meeting emotional needs were more private in contrast to those who were primarily playmates, or providing wish fulfillment and entertainment. The imaginary companions of the eldest children were mostly unknown to others, or partially concealed in games. This seemed to be in response to the anticipated responses of others. Methodological issues, psychological applications and research implications are discussed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Children's imaginary companions and the purposes they serve : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos...
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10007424
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