Research out today suggests that having imaginary friends helps children "learn the complexities of spoken expression sooner". Children with imaginary friends also tend to be more creative, a first born or an only child. My older brother had an imaginary friend - which I am taking to be the chicken (yes imaginary) who he used to play darts with - or was that my grandfather? It was a long time ago. Funny though that it would be a chicken (just thinking out loud now) since my grandfather had the dancing chicken concession on the rural show circuit - really! I'm not sure how the research classifies "imaginary" though. One of the reports I read started off referring to teddy bears and dolls. These aren't imag'inary - sure, you have to make up what they say, but they're real! Did the researchers cross reference their findings with earlier findings which suggest the verbal quotient (I may have just made that up and unfortunately don't have internet access so can't check but the meaning can be extrapolated from the context) increases with each child born into a family. I'm not sure if that research covered what happened to the exisiting members of the household as new ones came on board. Usual age for imaginary friends - 3 to 9. Other benefits, besides creativity? In adult life those who had imaginary friends are more likely to be achievement-oriented and emotionally responsive.
All this talk of imaginary friend has just gotten me thinking about Harvey, and wondering what he was, and where my copy of the film of the same name is.