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What if Santa died? Childhood myths and development

  • Lynda Breen (a1)
Extract

Disenchantment with Santa Claus is a rite of passage that usually signals the adoption of an adult-defined reality. The ethics of the custom, which has been described as misleading, have recently been debated and there are suggestions that it is less well maintained than in previous years. This short article explores some of the sociocognitive benefits of promoting the Santa Claus tale and its associated customs. Sociological theories suggest benefits in family bonding and pro-social behaviour, including sharing. Cognitive theories describe enhanced fantastical thinking, expansion of the internal object world and purposeful play. Children may draw parallels between Santa Claus and God, although there is no current evidence that finding out he does not exist impairs their subsequent capacity for religious faith. Whether or not the fable is a threat to the child's trust is to be decided by each parent. On balance, the tale of Santa Claus is a powerful tool that may serve to nurture social and cognitive development, particularly in a technological society where children mature earlier.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Barrington, A. (1997) The Truth about Santa Claus. Chicago, IL: Genesis communications Inc.
Clark, C. D. (1995) Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
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Malim, T. & Birch, A. (1998) Cognitive Development. In Introductory Psychology (First Edition, pp. 428478). London: Macmillan press.
Mayes, L. C. & Cohen, D. J. (1992) The development of a capacity for imagination in early childhood. Psycho-analytic Study of Children, 47, 2347.
Meyer, R. (1997) The Wisdom of Fairy Tales. Edinburgh: Floris Books.
Nolte, D. L. (1998) Children Learn What They Live. New York: Workman Publishing.
Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (1969) The Psychology of the Child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Polakow, V. (1992) The Erosion of Childhood. Chicago: University of Chicago press.
Prentice, N. (1978) Imaginary figures of early childhood: Santa Claus, Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 48, 618626.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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What if Santa died? Childhood myths and development

  • Lynda Breen (a1)
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