Father Christmas ‘undermines trust in parents’

Family|November 24th 2016

Stories about Father Christmas can damage the relationship between children and their parents, academics have suggested.

Clinical psychologist Dr Kathy McKay and psychology professor Christopher Boyle have claimed that the children’s trust can be permanently damaged, leaving them feeling “abject disappointment”.

The Santa story is “such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw” Dr McKay warned. After all, if a child’s parents “can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

In their article, the two said these can lead children to have questions like:

“If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?”

The revelation of the deception has the potential to cause serious damage to children, they claimed, but so can the belief itself. Some parents use the story “as a tool of control when they’re under a bit of pressure in the lead-up to Christmas” Professor Boyle explained. This is “potentially not the best parenting method” as it can give children the idea that “a mythical being [decides] whether you’re getting presents or not”.

Boyle and McKay suggested the story has been perpetuated by adults for their own benefit rather than for their children. The “desire to briefly re-enter childhood” can also be found in the adult fandoms of stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who, McKay insisted. These all exhibit a yearning “for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged” especially in the face of the “harshness of real life”.

The full article, titled A Wonderful Lie, was published in the academic journal Lancet Psychiatry.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. D says:

    Great stuff! Yeap 🙂 Reckon the bit ‘ the story has been perpetuated by adults for their own benefit rather than for their children ‘ is particularly true.

  2. Dr Grumpy says:

    Oh dear! I must be terribly damaged then! Who do I sue for compo?

  3. keith says:

    They do make a relevant point but father xmas has been a part of the lighthearted festive tradition for so long we have to wonder would it be right to take it away from the children of today and the future. its open to debate i guess.
    the so-called experts say-
    “These all exhibit a yearning “for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged” especially in the face of the “harshness of real life”.
    Well i stand by the words of the late Great Albert Einstein when he said “intelligence can take you from A to B but imagination can take you everywhere”.
    what a wonderful way to be a free spirit. and we have to bare in mind imagination was the beginning of many a brilliant invention that has helped shape our world today. i think i’ll stay with Mr E = Mc2.
    Merry christmas Albert wherever you are!

  4. Nemo Momenti says:

    A wonderful example of what bloody idiots academics can be. And they get PAID to spout this nonsense? Have they really got nothing better to do?

  5. Michael says:


    In the case of Eastwood v Psychology Board of Australia (Occupational Discipline) [2016] ACAT 52 an expert Dr Christopher Boyle appearing on behalf of the Board before the Tribunal made the following claim, ‘parental alienation syndrome was not a recognised psychological disorder according to DSM-V’.

    The Tribunal case was discipline by the Board against a Psychologist for providing misleading information.

    In ‘Child affected by Parental Relationship Distress’, published in, Journal of The Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry July 2016 written by two of the authors on the relevant sections of DSM-V Dr Narrow and Dr Wamboldt explain that the concept of ‘Parental Alienation’ is written into DSM5 as ‘Child affected by Parental Relationship Distress’. They determine that it is a form of domestic violence.

    I wonder if Dr Boyle would be interested in comparing his statement with what the authors of DSM5 have to say.

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