Parents perpetuate Santa Claus myth to make kids happy

December 9th, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 9 (IANS) Why do parents perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus? Canadian researchers say it is to make their children happy. Even though parents know they are lying to their kids, still they feel that having their children believe that there is a jolly man in a red suit who visits on Christmas eve is not harmful, says Montreal University professor Serge Larivee, who teaches psychology of education.

To study the hold of the Santa myth, Larivee and his colleague Carole Senechal from Ottawa University examined a US study from 1896 featuring 1,500 children aged 7 to 13, which was carried out again in 1979.

More than 46 percent of children in 1896 and 44 percent in 1979 gradually found on their own that Santa did not exist, according to the two studies.

In 1896, 54 percent of parents said they perpetuated the myth of Santa since it made their children happy as compared with 73 percent in 1979 and 80 percent in 2000.

What was the reaction of the children once they discovered the old fellow was not real? More than 22 percent children in the 1896 study said they were disappointed as against 39 percent in the 1979 study.

“When they learn the truth, children accept the rules of the game and even go along with their parents in having younger children believe in Santa. It becomes a rite of passage in that they know they are no longer babies” said Larivee.

He said the constant outcome of the two studies was that children generally discovered through their own observations and experiences that Santa does not exist, and their parents confirmed their discovery.

“Children ask their parents, for example, how Santa gets in the house if there is no chimney. And even if the parents say they leave the door unlocked, the child will figure out that Santa cannot be everywhere at the same time and that reindeer cannot be that fast”.

Belief in Santa diminishes as children approach the age of reason, said Larivee.

“But cognitive maturity and level of thought that would allow a seven-year-old to differentiate between the imaginary and reality are insufficient to let go of the myth,” he said.

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