Computing and Library Services - delivering an inspiring information environment

Individual differences in children’s private speech: the role of imaginary companions

Davis, Paige E., Meins, Elizabeth and Fernyhough, Charles (2013) Individual differences in children’s private speech: the role of imaginary companions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 116 (3). pp. 561-571. ISSN 00220965

PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (381kB) | Preview


Relations between children’s imaginary companion status and
their engagement in private speech during free play were investigated
in a socially diverse sample of 5-year-olds (N = 148). Controlling
for socioeconomic status, receptive verbal ability, total number
of utterances, and duration of observation, there was a main effect
of imaginary companion status on type of private speech. Children
who had imaginary companions were more likely to engage in covert
private speech compared with their peers who did not have
imaginary companions. These results suggest that the private
speech of children with imaginary companions is more internalized
than that of their peers who do not have imaginary companions
and that social engagement with imaginary beings may
fulfill a similar role to social engagement with real-life partners
in the developmental progression of private speech.

▼ Jump to Download Statistics
Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
Related URLs:

Al-Namlah, A., Fernyhough, C., & Meins, E. (2006). Sociocultural influences on the development of verbal mediation: Private
speech and phonological recording in Saudi Arabian and British samples. Developmental Psychology, 42, 117–131.
Al-Namlah, A. S., Meins, E., & Fernyhough, C. (2012). Self-regulatory private speech relates to children’s recall and organization
of autobiographical memories. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 441–446.
Behrend, D. A., & Rosengren, K. S. (1992). The relation between private speech and parental interactive style. In R. M. Diaz & L. E.
Berk (Eds.), Private speech: From social interaction to self-regulation (pp. 85–100). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Berk, L. E. (1986). Relationship of elementary school children’s private speech to behavioral accompaniment to task, attention,
and task performance. Developmental Psychology, 22, 671–680.
Berk, L. E. (1992). Children’s private speech: An overview of theory and the status of research. In R. M. Diaz & L. E. Berk (Eds.),
Private speech: From social interaction to self-regulation (pp. 17–53). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Berk, L. E., & Garvin, R. A. (1984). Development of private speech among low-income Appalachian children. Developmental
Psychology, 20, 271–286.
Berk, L. E., & Landau, S. (1993). Private speech of learning disabled and normally achieving children in classroom academic and
laboratory contexts. Child Development, 64, 556–571.
Berk, L. E., & Potts, M. K. (1991). Development and functional significance of private speech among attention-deficit
hyperactivity disordered and normal boys. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 19, 357–377.
Bouldin, P., & Pratt, C. (1999). Characteristics of preschool and school-age children with imaginary companions. Journal of
Genetic Psychology, 160, 397–410.
Daugherty, M., White, C. S., & Manning, B. H. (1995). Private speech and creativity. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20,
Davis, P. E., Meins, E., & Fernyhough, C. (2011). Self-knowledge in childhood: Relations with children’s imaginary companions
and understanding of mind. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29, 680–686.
Diaz, R. M., & Berk, L. E. (Eds.). (1992). Private speech: From social interaction to self-regulation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Diaz, R. M., Neal, C. J., & Vachio, A. (1991). Maternal teaching in the zone of proximal development: A comparison of low- and
high-risk dyads. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly Journal of Developmental Psychology, 37, 83–108.
Duncan, R. M., & Cheyne, J. A. (1999). Functions of self-reported private speech in young adults: A self-verbalization
questionnaire. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 31, 133–136.
Duncan, R. M., & Cheyne, J. A. (2002). Private speech in young adults: Task difficulty, self-regulation, and psychological
predication. Cognitive Development, 16, 889–906.
Dunn, L. M., Dunn, L. M., Whetton, C., & Burley, L. (1997). The British Picture Vocabulary Scale (2nd ed.). Windsor, UK: NFER–
Fernyhough, C. (2008). Getting Vygotskian about theory of mind: Mediation, dialogue, and the development of social
understanding. Developmental Review, 28, 225–262.
Fernyhough, C. (2009). Dialogic thinking. In A. Winsler, C. Fernyhough, & I. Montero (Eds.), Private speech, executive functioning,
and the development of verbal self-regulation (pp. 42–52). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fernyhough, C., Bland, K. A., Meins, E., & Coltheart, M. (2007). Imaginary companions and young children’s responses to
ambiguous auditory stimuli: Implications for typical and atypical development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
48, 1094–1101.
Fernyhough, C., & Fradley, E. (2005). Private speech on an executive task: Relations with task difficulty and task performance.
Cognitive Development, 20, 103–120.
Fernyhough, C., & Russell, J. (1997). Distinguishing one’s own voice from those of others: A function for private speech?
International Journal of Behavioral Development, 20, 651–665.
Gleason, T. R. (2002). Social provision of real and imaginary relationships in early childhood. Developmental Psychology, 38,
Gleason, T. R. (2004). Imaginary companions: An evaluation of parents as reporters. Journal of Infant and Child Development, 13,
Gleason, T. R. (2005). Mothers’ and fathers’ attitudes regarding pretend play in the context of imaginary companions and of
child gender. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly Journal of Developmental Psychology, 51, 412–436.
Gleason, T. R., & Hohmann, L. M. (2006). Concepts of real and imaginary friendships in early childhood. Social Development, 15,
Gleason, T. R., Sebanc, A. M., & Hartup, W. W. (2000). Imaginary companions of preschool children. Developmental Psychology, 36,
Harris, P. (2000). The work of the imagination. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Hoaglin, D. C., & Iglewicz, B. (1987). Fine tuning some resistant rules for outlier labeling. Journal of American Statistical
Association, 82, 1147–1149.
Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. Unpublished manuscript, Yale University.
Kohlberg, L., Yaeger, J., & Hjertholm, E. (1968). Private speech: Four studies and a review of theories. Child Development, 39,
Kraft, K. C., & Berk, L. E. (1998). Private speech in two preschools: Significance of open-ended activities and make-believe play
for verbal self-regulation. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13, 637–658.
Lidstone, J. S. M., Meins, E., & Fernyhough, C. (2010). The roles of private speech and inner speech in planning in middle
childhood: Evidence from a dual task paradigm. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 107, 438–451.
Lidstone, J. S. M., Meins, E., & Fernyhough, C. (2011). Individual differences in children’s private speech: Consistency across
tasks, timepoints, and contexts. Cognitive Development, 26, 203–213.
Lidstone, J. S. M., Meins, E., & Fernyhough, C. (2012). Verbal mediation of cognition in children with specific language
impairment. Development and Psychopathology, 24, 651–660.
Meins, E., Fernyhough, C., Arnott, B., Turner, M., & Leekam, S. R. (2011). Mother- versus infant-centered correlates of maternal
mind-mindedness in the first year of life. Infancy, 16, 137–165.
Meins, E., Fernyhough, C., de Rosnay, M., Arnott, B., Leekam, S. R., & Turner, M. (2012). Mind-mindedness as a multidimensional
construct: Appropriate and nonattuned mind-related comments independently predict infant–mother attachment in a
socially diverse sample. Infancy, 17, 393–415.
Olszewski, P., & Fuson, K. C. (1982). Verbally expressed fantasy play of preschoolers as a function of toy structure. Developmental
Psychology, 18, 57–61.
Pearson, D. (1998). The social acceptability of children hearing voices. Doctor of clinical psychology thesis, University of
Pearson, D., Burrow, A., Fitzgerald, C., Green, K., Lee, G., & Wise, N. (2001). Auditory hallucinations in normal child populations.
Personality and Individual Differences, 31, 401–407.
Roby, A. C., & Kidd, E. (2008). The referential communication skills of children with imaginary companions. Developmental
Science, 11, 531–540.
Svendsen, M. (1934). Children’s imaginary companions. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 2, 985–999.
Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Taylor, M. (1999). Imaginary companions and the children who create them. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, M., & Carlson, S. (1997). The relation between individual differences in fantasy and theory of mind. Child Development,
68, 436–455.
Taylor, M., Carlson, S. M., Maring, B. L., Gerow, L., & Charley, C. M. (2004). The characteristics and correlates of fantasy in schoolage
children: Imaginary companions, impersonation, and social understanding. Developmental Psychology, 40, 1173–1187.
Trionfi, G., & Reese, E. (2009). A good story: Children with imaginary companions create richer narratives. Child Development, 80,
Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R. W. Reiber & A. S. Carton (Eds.). The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky, Vol. 1:
Problems of general psychology (pp. 37–285). New York: Plenum [Original work published in 1934].
Winsler, A., De León, J. R., Wallace, B. A., Carlton, M. P., & Willson-Quayle, A. (2003). Private speech in preschool children:
Developmental stability and change, across-task consistency, and relations with classroom behavior. Journal of Child
Language, 30, 583–608.
Winsler, A., Diaz, R. M., McCarthy, E. M., Atencio, D. J., & Adams Chabay, L. (1999). Mother–child interaction, private speech, and
task performance in preschool children with behavior problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 891–904.
Winsler, A., Feder, M., Way, E. L., & Manfra, L. (2006). Maternal beliefs concerning young children’s private speech. Infant and
Child Development, 15, 403–420.
Winsler, A., Fernyhough, C., McClaren, E. M., & Way, E. (2004). Private speech coding manual. Unpublished manuscript, George
Mason University.
Winsler, A., Manfra, L., & Diaz, R. M. (2007). ‘‘Should I let them talk?’’ Private speech and task performance among preschool
children with and without behavior problems. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 215–231.
Winsler, A., & Naglieri, J. (2003). Overt and covert verbal problem-solving strategies: Developmental trends in use, awareness,
and relations with task performance in children aged 5–17. Child Development, 74, 659–678.

Depositing User: Paige Davis
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2016 12:49
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 14:45


Downloads per month over past year

Repository Staff Only: item control page

View Item View Item

University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH Copyright and Disclaimer All rights reserved ©