Parents’ estimations of their children’s happiness differ significantly from the child’s own assessment of their feelings, a study has shown.
Research by psychologists at Plymouth University showed that parents of 10 and 11-year-olds consistently overestimated their child’s happiness, while those with 15 and 16-year-olds were inclined to underestimate.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, the study attributed the discrepancies to an “egocentric bias” through which parents rely too heavily on their own feelings in assessing the happiness of the family unit as a whole.
The results showed that parents were inclined to score a child or adolescents’ happiness closely in line with their own emotional feelings, whereas in fact there were notable differences in the child’s own reports.
Interestingly, the study showed a decline in the level of happiness in parents of adolescents.
Dr. Belén López-Pérez, who conducted the study, said, “Being unable to read children’s happiness appropriately may increase misunderstanding between parents and children/adolescents, which has been shown to have negative consequences for parent-child relationships. Furthermore, parents might not be able to provide the appropriate emotional support or attend to their children’s needs accurately.”
The findings of the study reveal that if your child is 10 or 11 they may not be as happy as you think they are and if they are 15 or 16 they may be happier than you think they are.