MaltaToday survey | Majority of parents ‘lie’ about Santa Claus

A MaltaToday survey shows that the Santa myth is peddled most by those who believed in it longest

james
James Debono
13 December 2016, 7:30am
Those who believed longest in the existence of Santa Claus are also the most likely to tell their children that he exists
Those who believed longest in the existence of Santa Claus are also the most likely to tell their children that he exists
MaltaToday Survey | Christmas 2016, Do you believe in Santa Claus?
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A MaltaToday survey shows that 59% of Maltese parents and grandparents encourage their children and nephews to believe that Santa Claus exists.  

The survey also finds that those who believed longest in the existence of Santa Claus are also the most likely to tell their children that he exists. 

While only 36% of those who never believed in Santa tell their children that he exists, the percentage rises to 67% among those who continued believing in Santa after the age of eight years.

The survey shows that most people stop believing in Santa at between eight and 10 years of age. But one in 20 continued believing in Santa beyond the age of 10 while nearly one in four never believed he exists.

Should you tell children that Santa exists?

A study recently published in the respectable The Lancet Psychiatry journal urged  parents to stop pretending Father Christmas is real in case the “lie” damages relations with their children.

Spinning stories about Santa risks undermining a child’s trust and is morally suspect, according to two experts.

Social scientist Kathy McKay and psychologist Christopher Boyle also condemn the idea of a “terrifying” North Pole intelligence agency which judges children to be nice or naughty.

 “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”

The authors warned that the discovery of the truth by children could affect the trust that exists between child and parent. But this harsh opinion is disputed by other researchers and academics who see imagination and fantasy as something to be encouraged.

Jared Durtschi, an assistant professor in Kansas State University’s marriage and family therapy programme insists that by telling the truth about Santa before a child has figured it out on his or her own, parents might unintentionally lessen the excitement of the Christmas season for their children.

“Christmas tends to be more fun for those kids who believe in Santa compared to those who do not,” he said. “It may be unnecessary to spoil the excitement for the child until they outgrow the belief.”

Younger parents keener on Santa myth

The MaltaToday survey shows that younger generations are more likely to peddle the Santa Claus myth. While 64% of under-34 year old parents and 61% of those aged between 35 and 54 tell their children that Santa exists, only 53% of those over 55 do likewise.  Those aged under 34 are also the least likely not to have ever believed in Santa Claus. In fact while over one fourth of over 35 year olds have never believed in Santa Claus, the percentage of those who never believed in Santa falls to just 9% among under 34s.  

The survey shows that education does not play a big role in the perpetuation of the Santa myth. Respondents with a university level of education are as likely to tell their children that Santa is real as respondents with a secondary level of education. Scepticism is stronger among those with a primary level of education, but this could be attributed more to the prevalence of older people in this age group.  

People with a university level of education are just a bit more likely not to have ever believed in Santa – compared to those with a lower education. University educated respondents were also more likely to stop believing in Santa before the age of nine.  But those who followed a post secondary non-university course were the most likely to believe in Santa after the age of nine. 

Santa: an inherited myth?

But more than age and education it is their own childhood experience which determines whether parents tell their children that Santa is real or not. In fact while those who never believed in Santa are the least likely to tell their children that he is real (36%), those who stopped believing in Santa at an earlier age are also less likely to tell their children that Santa is real than those who continued believing for a longer time.  

While only 50% of those who stopped believing in Santa before they were eight tell their children that he is real, 67% of those who continued to believe in Santa after they were 10 years of age are now encouraging their children to continue believing the same magical lie. It also suggests that the late discovery that they had been deceived by their parents has not dissuaded them from doing the same to their own children.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...