Do you know how I feel? Parents underestimate worry and overestimate optimism compared to child self-report

J Exp Child Psychol. 2012 Oct;113(2):211-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.04.001. Epub 2012 Jun 23.


Three studies assessed parent-child agreement in perceptions of children's everyday emotions in typically developing 4- to 11-year-old children. Study 1 (N=228) and Study 2 (N=195) focused on children's worry and anxiety. Study 3 (N=90) examined children's optimism. Despite child and parent reporters providing internally consistent responses, their perceptions about children's emotional wellbeing consistently failed to correlate. Parents significantly underestimated child worry and anxiety and overestimated optimism compared to child self-report (suggesting a parental positivity bias). Moreover, parents' self-reported emotions correlated with how they reported their children's emotions (suggesting an egocentric bias). These findings have implications for developmental researchers, clinicians, and parents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Bias
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents*
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report*
  • Social Perception*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • United States