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Children gain from delayed gratification.

Children Gain From Delayed Gratification

Preschoolers who were able to delay short-term gratification for long-term gain were found to be more socially and scholastically advanced than their peers 10 years later, according to Walter Mischel of the Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, and colleagues.

Reviewing several research programs, they found that 4-year-old children from the Stanford University community, who delayed gratification in certain laboratory experiments, "developed into more cognitively and socially competent adolescents, achieving higher scholastic performance and coping better with frustration and stress."

In one series of experiments, children were given a choice of two rewards, one slightly more appealing than the other. If they waited until the researcher returned, they received their desired reward. If they could not hold out, they could signal the researcher to return, but they would receive the less appealing of the rewards. The reviewers determined that delay became increasingly difficult if the reward were left in the child's presence; however, if an image (slide) of the reward were left in its place, the child could more effectively delay gratification.

According to the reviewers, the child's ability to exert self-control depends on whether he or she focuses on the arousing ("hot") or abstract ("cold") qualities of the reward. The hot qualities "tend to elicit completion of the action sequence associated with it, such as eating a food or playing with a toy." The cool aspects serve as a "cue or reminder of the contingency or reason for delaying the action sequence associated with it."

The researchers also found that as the children matured, they were increasingly able to understand strategies for self-control. They concluded that goal-directed delays of gratification are important in the prevention of developmental and mental health problems.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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