When I was young, before I had siblings, I had an imaginary friend whose name was Jeffery. Jeffery went with me everywhere. The two instances I remember most clearly (one of which is a story my mother tells) are these: 1. I was throwing a tantrum in the car, and my mother finally said, "Rebekah, Jeffery doesn't like it when you scream." I promptly stopped screaming long enough to say, "Jeffery loves it when I scream." Not exactly the most flattering story of my childhood, but there it is. 2. Jeffery came with me to Chuck E. Cheese's and went down the rolly slide. He also hid in the playhouse because he was shy. I remember trying to coax him out to play. I don't know how many children have imaginary friends or necessarily where these friends come from. But here are a few of my thoughts on the topic.
Imaginary friends appear when a child has nobody to play with themselves. A child who has no siblings or close friends may create their own playmate to share in their adventures. I don't remember when Jeffery disappeared, but I have a feeling that it was around the time I had my own baby sister to look after.
Imaginary friends may often have the same fears that the child has such as timidity or shyness. I was (and still am to a certain degree) very shy growing up. Perhaps Jeffery being shy as well provided me with a way to talk myself out of being shy. Obviously it didn't really work, but it may be a theory.
Imaginary friends are there for you to confide in and tell all your secrets to, especially when you don't have a best friend. I'm sure that Jeffery heard lots of my worries and plans even if I can't remember telling him about them.
If your child has an imaginary friend, don't squelch it. Encouraging them is a tricky business, but having a friend of their own creation helps nourish their imagination. Eventually, kids will discover that their closest imaginary friend isn't actually real. If not, you can guide them along. But don't strike too soon. Let your kids enjoy their imaginary friends. They only last so long.