Psychologists at the University of Exeter are using an international survey to gauge the psychological impact of the Father Christmas myth.
Does the Father Christmas myth harm children?
When do children stop believing in Father Christmas? Did you feel distressed by the revelation that Santa isn’t real? Were you angry you were lied to, when you found out? Was Christmas different after that? Did the magic disappear?
These are questions that psychologists at the University of Exeter are to explore in an international survey to gauge the psychological impact of the Father Christmas myth.
Professor Chris Boyle is to explore whether finding out that Father Christmas is not real can cause psychological harm, and lead to a backlash against parents, longer-term resentment, or betrayal of trust.
The survey of people’s experiences of Santa in countries around the world is designed to find out at what age, on average, children learn the truth about Father Christmas, and whether this differs according to location. It will measure whether the disclosure ruined the magic of Christmas and will also ask, whether after finding out, they just played along.
The University of Exeter psychologist will also look at whether children reacted angrily to the revelation, and how they found out Santa was not real: through friends, parents, siblings or online.
The study follows an essay by Professor Boyle in the Lancet Psychiatry , 'A Wonderful Lie' last year which explored whether telling a fib about Santa was good for children, especially as the falsehood was bound to be revealed.
“When I wrote the essay, I was overwhelmed by people emailing me to say that they had been affected by finding out about Santa. It seemed to be more about the issue of trust, rather than about Santa not being real. I want to try to find out whether there was a sense of anger and question marks over other information given to children by parents. Many adults will remember how they found out and who told them,” he said.
“This study will attempt to bring that information together and understand a bit more about children and their belief in Santa Claus.”
The Exeter Santa Survey will go live on Wednesday, 13th December.
Date: 12 December 2017