Fifty-two children who no longer believed in Santa Claus were individually administered a structured interview on their reactions to discovering the truth. Their parents completed a questionnaire assessing their initial encouragement of the child to believe in Santa and rating their child's reactions to discovering the truth as well as their own reactions to the child's discovery. Parental encouragement for the child to believe was very strong. Children generally discovered the truth on their own at age seven. Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child's discovery.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Doll EA:Measurement of Social Competence: A Manual for the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, 1953.
Gesell A: Human infancy and the ontogenesis of behavior.Amer Scient 37:529–553, 1949.
Craddick RA: Size of Santa Claus drawings as a function of time before and after Christmas.J Psychol Stud 12:121–125, 1961.
Craddick RA: Height of Christmas tree drawings as a function of time.Percept Motor Skills 17:335–339, 1963.
Samuelson S:Christmas: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1982.
Barnett JH:The American Christmas: A Study in National Culture. New York: Macmillan, 1954.
Coffin TP:The Illustrated Book of Christmas Folklore. New York: Seabury Press, 1973.
Adler B: (Comp.)Children's Letters to Santa Claus. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967.
Belk RW: A child's Christmas in America: Santa Claus as deity, consumption as religion.J Amer Cult 10(1):87–100, 1987.
Boyer LB: Christmas neurosis.J Amer Psychoan Assoc 3:467–488, 1955.
Eisenbud J: Negative reactions to Christmas.Psychoan Quart 10:639–649, 1941.
Bettleheim B: Dialogue with mothers.Ladies Home Journal, 88(12):14, 16, 1971.
Proctor JT: Children's reactions to Christmas.J Oklahom St Med Assoc 60:653–659, 1967.
Sereno R: Some observations on the Santa Claus custom.Psychiat 14:387–396, 1951.
Wedemeyer D: The Santa Claus myth: Even the experts can't agree.Houston Post, December 2, 7AA, 1972.
Duncombe FE: Children's ideas about Santa Claus.Northwestern J Educ 7:37–42, 1896.
Benjamin LT, Langley JF, Hall RJ: Santa now and then.Psychology Today, 13(7):36–44, 1979.
Blair JR, McKee JS, Jernigan LF: Children's belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy,Psychol Rep 46:691–694, 1980.
Prentice NM, Manosevitz M, Hubbs L: Imaginary figures of early childhood: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.Amer J Orthopsychiat 48: 618–628, 1978.
Anderson CJ: On discovering the truth: Children's reactions to the reality of the Santa Claus myth. (Doctoral dissertation, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 1987).Diss Abst Internat 48:3701-B, 1988. (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Order No.: DA 8728507).
Hollingshead AB:Two factor index of social position. New Haven: Dept. of Sociology, Yale University, 1957. (Mimeo.)
Dunn L(loyd) M, Dunn L(eota) M:Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised: Manual for Forms L and M. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, 1981.
Prentice NM, Gordon DA: The role of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy for the Jewish child and parent.J Genet Psychol 148:139–151, 1987.
Prentice NM, Schmechel LK, Manosevitz M: Children's belief in Santa Claus: A developmental study of fantasy and causality.J Amer Acad Child Psychiat 18:658–667, 1979.
Coyle FA, Eisenman R: Santa Claus drawings by negro and white children.J Soc Psychol 80:201–205, 1970.
Ginott A: The annual dilemma: Should a Jewish child celebrate Christmas?Ladies Home Journal, 95(11):94–95, 1978.
Bloom DH:Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House. New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1985.
Stark E: Yes, there is a Jewish Santa.Psychology Today 17(12):84, 1983.
Wells HG:The First Men in the Moon. Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill, 1901. (Original work published 1900).
Forbush WB:Guidebook to Childhood. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1915.
Boss JA: Is Santa Claus corrupting our children's morals?Free Inquiry 11(4):24–27, 1991.
Boss JA: ‘No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Someone's been lying to you.’Free Inquiry 12(2): 52–53, 1992.
Manosevitz M, Prentice NM, Wilson F: Individual and family correlates of imaginary companions in preschool children.Develop Psychol 8:72–79, 1973.
Bettleheim B:The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Vintage Books, 1977.
This report is based on a doctoral dissertation by the first author which was chaired by the second author. The authors gratefully acknowledge the substantial contributions of Professors Ricardo C. Ainslie, James Bieri, Cindy I. Carlson, Robert K. Young, and Donald J. Veldman in the conduct of this study.
Portions of this research were presented to the Western Psychological Association, Burlingame, California, on April 29, 1988.
About this article
Cite this article
Anderson, C.J., Prentice, N.M. Encounter with reality: Children's reactions on discovering the Santa Claus myth. Child Psych Hum Dev 25, 67–84 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02253287
- Santa Claus