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Children's dreams have often been described as bizarre and fantastical in nature. Early theories of children's emotional development (e.g., psychoanalytic theory, which maintained that dreams are wish fulfillments) contributed to this view. But how dreams are studied may also play a role. Dreams reported after they occur may have been recalled because they were bizarre. David Foulkes showed in laboratory studies that if children were awakened during REM sleep and asked to describe their dreams, a different picture emerged. Although some dreams contained bizarre elements, children generally dreamed about familiar people, settings, and actions. In addition, dreams changed with age. It was not until about age eight or nine that dream reports began to include narratives that featured activity by dream characters with the self as a participant. Foulkes concluded that dreaming in children is linked to general intellectual development with dream construction dependent on abstract, representational thought.

In general, empirical research on children's dreams has been sparse. While knowledge of many aspects of sleeping in childhood has grown since the 1950s, relatively little is known about the intriguing topic of children's dreams.


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Kahn, André, Bernard Dan, José Groswasser, Patricia Franco, and Martine Sottiaux. "Normal Sleep Architecture in Infants and Children." Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology 13, no. 3 (1996):184-197.

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Mabel L. Sgan Beverly J. Roder

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