Is your child happy? Well, that may depend on your own happiness. New research from psychologists at Plymouth University in England has shown that parents of children who are 10 or 11 years old overestimate their children’s happiness, while parents with 15- and 16-year-olds underestimate their children’s happiness. These ratings might have more to do with their own feelings than their kids’, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Researchers asked 357 kids from two different schools in Spain, as well as their parents, questions to assess their respective levels of happiness — these were assessed based on a number of self-reported measures and ratings. The results showed parents were more inclined to rate their own children’s happiness closer to their own emotional feelings, and that their children’s happiness ratings often ended up different. This may have been a result of an “egocentric bias,” in which parents based their observations on their own emotions, the researchers said.

“Studying informants’ discrepancies and the relationship between parents’ and children’s self-reports on happiness is vital to determine whether parental report is valid,” said Dr. Belen Lopez-Perez, postdoctoral research fellow in developmental and social psychology at Plymouth University and author of the study, in a statement.

While children’s happiness has previously been studied, little research has been done to determine how parents’ reports on their children’s happiness falls in line with their own children’s reports. The study found that there were notable differences between how the children rated their own happiness when compared to how their parents rated it, and that both children and adolescents’ ratings seemed to remain steady as they got older. Meanwhile, as the children got older, the parents tended to underestimate their children’s happiness, suggesting that it was the parents’ happiness that was declining and not their children’s.

The findings may help improve not only the well-being of a parent, by identifying problems that may be mended, but also the relationship between a parent and their child by facilitating communication. Often, a parent may not even know they are unhappy, or that their unhappiness is creating strife between them and their child until problems arise. By understanding where they are emotionally, a parent will be better prepared to handle the emotional needs of their child.

“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,” Lopez-Perez said. “Furthermore, parents might not be able to provide the appropriate emotional support or attend to their children’s needs accurately.”

Source: Lopez-Perez B, Wilson E. Parent-child discrepancies in the assessment of children’s and adolescents’ happiness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 2015.