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Carlson's syndrome at children

Carlson's syndrome at children – the feature of mental development which is characterized by presence of the imagined friend. The character – the person, an animal, fantastic being, the literary hero – is created by imagination of the child. The syndrome is shown by episodes of communication, a game, household rituals with the invisible companion. The child asks, sounds requests, puts an additional plate, shares clothes, toys. Diagnostics is carried out by method of a conversation, observation. The children who are excessively closed, preferring imaginations to the real world need family, individual psychotherapy.

Carlson's syndrome at children

The name of a syndrome arose thanks to the story A. Lindgren "The kid and Carlson" about the boy and the imagined little man living on a roof. Feature of friendship of characters of the book – meetings take place at experience of loneliness, offense, grief by the child. Communication with Carlson compensates softness, indecision of the Kid, is directed against requirements, the bans of parents. Synonymous names of a syndrome – the invisible friend, the imagined partner. This psychological feature is shown at children from 3 years, by 6 years symptoms disappear. Information on prevalence of a syndrome is absent – often manifestations do not cause concern of parents, take place independently, without interfering with development, socialization of the child.

The reasons of a syndrome of Carlson at children

Active formation of imagination at children becomes a basis for creation of the invisible companion. Lack of the external incentives capable to carry away the child does imagination by a source of entertainments. Psychological problems are the reasons of the expressed Carlson's syndrome. The invented character helps to cope with negative emotions, compensates missing personal qualities. Provocative factors are:

  • Deficiency of communication. Age of 3-7 years – the period of intensive development of communicative skills. The fictional companion satisfies need of the child to communicate, play, eliminates the feeling of abandonment, uselessness arising at excessive employment of parents, rejection by peers.
  • Fears, phobias. The thought-up character is allocated with bravery, courage, becomes the child's defender. The imagination allows to win against feeling of uncertainty, children's fears.
  • Sense of guilt. Children feel the participation in family quarrels, problems of parents. The relations with the invisible friend are used for transfer of fault or receiving justifications, support.
  • Hyper guardianship, bans. Total parental control, excessive care, restrictions, rules do not leave space for independence, realization of desires of the child. Friendship with the imagined partner becomes way to feel freedom, own importance.
  • Lack of interesting events. The imagination is used for experience of new impressions. The child invents characters, a situation, events which take emotionally – joy, delight, surprise, fear allow to endure.


The phenomenon of the constructed satellite is traced at early stages of phylogeny – in early historical times the imagined partners were supernatural beings: spirits, house gods, brownies, guardian angels, muses. Preserved, provided comfort, helped to make important decisions, became inspiration sources. In ontogenetichesky development the invented friends arise at 3-6 summer children, perform similar functions. A basis of a syndrome of Carlson is intensive development of imagination – the function of thinking realizing separation from a concrete situation, creation of new images. Appearance of the fictional companion is provoked by psychological problems of various type – the fears, loneliness blocked by requirements. The lines allowing to lower feeling of discomfort, to compensate emotional tension are attributed to the character. Fantasy communication, games, household rituals restore a comfortable condition of the child.

Symptoms of a syndrome of Carlson at children

The imagined companion – the person (the child, the adult), an animal, the hero of the fairy tale, myth, religious doctrine – is allocated with a certain set of the qualities depending on features of the psychological problem making a syndrome basis. The children feeling fear create brave, ready to protect the character. The feeling of loneliness generates the kind, sociable, cheerful partner ready to play, have a good time. The companion inclined to mischief, pranks, adventures compensates parental hyper guardianship, strict rules of education. The children suffering from sense of guilt have the partner capable to support, state approval, to justify or adopt fault.

Carlson's syndrome is shown by stories about the thought-up partner. Children seldom hide its existence in imagination, they will organize daily rituals, games taking into account requirements, desires of the companion. During meal put additional tableware, ask mother to give food, put the second pillow, divide toys for two, read rules of the game. Communicating, encourage, condemn, argue with the fantasy character. At pronounced symptomatology children spend the most part of time with the fictional hero to the detriment of real interpersonal contacts.


Complication of a syndrome of Carlson – a problem of social adaptation. At the expressed clinical picture the child refuses to play with peers, does not try to make friends, avoids contact with mother, the father. Friendship imagination becomes priority – any situation gives in to control, is emotionally comfortable. At children of 5-8 years symptoms are gradually reduced. Leaving can be enshrined in the imagination as a way of psychological protection, to be shown at teenagers, adults. It reduces social activity, interferes with establishment of productive interpersonal contacts.


The majority of cases of a syndrome of Carlson do not become the reason of the address to the doctor – the child has a "special" friend, but social activity, interest in communication with children, parents remains. Gradually invented friendship is replaced with the real relations, study, sport, creativity. The question of need of medical care arises when the child becomes isolated, refuses to contact to people, does not separate the imagination from reality, does not show interest in the activity peculiar to age (games, study, creativity). Diagnostics is performed by the psychiatrist, the psychologist, the psychotherapist. The following methods are used:

  • Conversation. The expert interviews parents about features of manifestations of a syndrome, their duration, frequency, the accompanying emotional and behavioural features. The conversation with the child allows to learn a name of the friend, age, personal qualities.
  • Observation. The behavior of the child, emotional reactions, relationship with mother, the father, the prevailing way of education is estimated. The fantasy character can "be present" at appointment, in that case observation allows to assume the friendship development reasons.
  • Projective psychodiagnostics. The pictural method of a research gives the most detailed information on the invented character, his qualities, features of friendship. Emotional problems (fear, experience of fault, uncertainty, loneliness) are determined by features of the image, results of post-pictural poll.

At children's age differential diagnostics does not represent complexity: the main symptom – presence of the invented character – is unique. Incidental manifestations of a syndrome of Carlson demand distinction with the hallucinatory, crazy symptomatology characteristic of schizophrenia from patients of teenage, youthful age. Key criterion – critical perception of "friend", distinction of reality and the imagination. Emotional and personal lines, features of thinking are in addition investigated.

Treatment of a syndrome of Carlson at children

If the imagined friendship does not become central in the child's life, does not replace communication with real people, then treatment is not required. Symptoms pass by the end of the preschool childhood. The help of the psychotherapist is necessary when the syndrome develops on the basis of serious mental problems – the increased uneasiness, uncertainty, fears, the suppressed aggression, the underestimated self-assessment. Are applied:

  • Consultation. The psychotherapist leads a discussion with parents, explaining influence of education, the family relations on development of a syndrome. Makes individual recommendations: to spend more time together, to reduce the level of the bans, requirements, to state a praise, to support.
  • Cognitive and behavioral therapy. Individual occupations are directed to elimination of the available behavioural and emotional violations. The psychotherapist helps the child to feel, speak the available fears, offenses, unpleasant feelings, to replace them productive.
  • Family psychotherapy. Meetings of the psychotherapist, the child and parents allow to change the intra family relations promoting development of a syndrome. During the trainings, games participants learn to notice and correct behavior, style of education.

Forecast and prevention

Carlson's syndrome – a problem of social character. The forecast is defined by readiness of parents to become more attentive to the child's problems. The outcome favorable – fantasy friendship is replaced by real. Prevention is based on maintenance of the confidential, benevolent family relations which are a basis of emotional comfort of the child. Development of children's imagination needs to be kept creative occupations – drawing, modeling, a molding, games. It is important to remember: the invented friend is the assistant to the kid. It is impossible to abuse, punish for the existing friendship. The equal, quiet relation to the imagination without excess tanking promotes gradual independent disappearance of symptoms.

Carlson's syndrome at children - treatment should be carried out only under the supervision of a doctor. Self-treatment is unacceptable!!!

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