Santa Claus: A bit of fun for the kids or harmful fantasy?

About 90% of children under seven still believe in Santa Claus and there’s no psychological harm done by parents who encourage the illusion, according to psychologists at London Metropolitan University.

Research led by Chartered Psychologist, Dr Louise Bunce, reveals that belief in Father Christmas is still wide-spread among children.

Of the 3-10-year-olds surveyed, 60% said Santa was ‘real’ with the figure rising to around 90% for children under seven years.

When asked to explain why, the children appealed to facts that they knew about him, with responses like: ‘he brings us toys’, ‘he lives in the North Pole’, ‘he always comes at Christmas’ and ‘he knows when children are asleep and he never comes if children have been naughty’.

“Belief started to wane once children had passed their 7th birthday” said Dr Bunce.

Older children start to question their belief and say things like: ‘Sometimes I think he puts the presents there and sometimes I think it’s Mum and Dad’ and ‘we haven’t got a chimney so he can’t come down with presents’.

Only 25% of 8-10-year-olds said Santa was real. Most children this age realized that it was their parents leaving presents, and understood that people cannot fly around the world in one night.

Dr Bunce said many parents faced the awkward question of whether they should encourage their children to believe in Santa or tell them the truth.

Dr Bunce said: “Believing in Father Christmas is a fun and exciting activity for children of all ages to engage in this Christmas. Exercising children’s imaginations is an important part of development and enhances their ability to think creatively.

“Engaging in fantasy is not just an immature or childish activity but something that we as adults engage in all the time when we read a novel, watch a film, play a computer game, or visit the theatre.

“Therefore parents should not be concerned about encouraging their child to believe in Father Christmas for another year.”

Notes to editors:

For more information or to arrange an interview, please call the London Met press office.

Nick Hansen
PR Office
London Metropolitan University
+44 (0) 20 7133 2467

About Dr Louise Bunce, CPsychol

Dr Bunce is a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society and a Lecturer in Psychology at London Metropolitan University. She graduated with 1st Class Hons degree in Psychology from Royal Holloway, University of London and was awarded a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Oxford Brookes University. Dr Bunce has published in academic journals and presented her research at conferences to audiences worldwide. She is available to act as a consultant for issues around child development.