Encounter with reality: Children's reactions on discovering the Santa Claus myth


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.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Norman M. Prentice PhD.

Additional information

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.

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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

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Key words

  • Santa Claus
  • Myth
  • Fantasy
  • Christmas
  • Childhood