The tale of the Easter bunny: fun fiction or harmful myth?
This Easter Bunny article is republished here with permission from The conversation. This content is shared here as the topic may be of interest to Snopes readers; however, it does not represent the work of fact-checkers or Snopes editors.
All over the world, many parents are getting ready for Easter – maybe thinking about how the Easter eggs will be hidden, how they will explain their delivery, and maybe prepare for some tough questions about the bunny. Easter.
But before parents figuratively dust off the Easter Bunny myth for its annual delivery of fictionalized fact, is it time to pause, mid-rebound, to consider whether indulging in this deception can? be harmful to our children?
Many are enthusiastic about the game they are going to play with their children, but it is a one-sided game where children do not know the rules; they are participating in something presented to them as an entertaining reality.
Three major fantasy figures permeate Western culture: Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny.
A 2011 study found that a significant transition occurs around age six, when children begin to distinguish fantasy figures as capable of violating real-world causation principles (they recognize that imaginary figures can do things that humans cannot). Even very young children (ages three to five) can recognize fantastic characters as different.
Contrary to the idea that the shift to a view of fantastic characters as violating the principles of causation may be responsible for children’s ability to discern the fictional nature of these characters, this study did not find this relationship. In other words, there is no sudden realization that such numbers cannot be real.
Others question whether the promotion of such deception is in the best interests of the children. There has been surprisingly little research conducted to examine the impacts of our societal investment in these numbers on children.
In 1994, researchers examined children’s reactions uncovered the myth (in the case of Santa Claus) and found that the children showed many positive or negative reactions to the truth, but generally without significant distress.
However, the way the terms were defined may be a major flaw in the study. Some 71% of children said they were “happy” to learn the truth, but this “happiness” could be associated with negative feelings – happy that their instincts were right, that they were now aware of their parents’ deception. .
Although the authors downplayed the intensity of the negative impacts on children, these impacts were not trivial:
- 50% of the children surveyed felt bad
- 48% felt sad, disappointed or cheated
- 42% felt confused
- 35% felt angry
- 33% felt upset
- 29% felt sorry
- 13% felt hurt.
And while some – if not many – children may appear to suffer from small ill effects when the deception is exposed, others potentially do.
One frequently cited piece by science writer Melinda Wenner Moyer contains the idea that fantastic characters (again focusing on Santa Claus) are not only beneficial for children’s cognitive development, but perhaps even necessary.
Psychologist William Irwin and philosopher David Johnson counter that this kind of deception “does not really promote the imagination or imaginative play” because imagining means you are pretending, and in order to pretend that something exists you must first believe that it does not .
One lie leads to another
Studies show that lying as a parenting tool is incredibly common. To research published last month on the effects of adult lies on children suggests that parents are reconsidering the use of such deceptions as harmless fun.
An adult’s lie (in this case an adult unknown to the child) affects a child’s honesty (186 children were tested, aged three to seven – the same age group likely to believe in the Easter bunny when parents promote the story).
Lied school-aged (but not preschoolers) children were more likely to cheat and then lie to cover up their cheating.
The authors warn that more studies are needed using the parent as an experimenter to determine whether breaches of trust lead to even more dishonest behavior by the child or whether the parent-child relationship (likely depending on the degree of attachment) makes children safe from parental lies. effects.
In the meantime, it’s worth spending some time breaking down societal and family filters to uncover your own values about the Big Three – the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy – and ask if deception really works for you. your family.
At Easter, maybe consider gently giving your kids a basket full of honesty about who really provides Easter eggs.
Victoria metcalf, Lecturer in genetics