Examining children's ability to delay reward: Is the delay discounting task a suitable measure?

Patrick Burns, Olivia Fay, Mary-Frances McCafferty, Veronica McKeever, Cristina Atance, Teresa McCormack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Discounting the value of delayed rewards has primarily been measured in children with the delay of gratification task and in adolescents and adults with the delay discounting task. In the present study, we assessed the suitability of the delay discounting task as a measure of temporal discounting in children. A sample of 7‐ to 9‐year‐olds (N = 98) completed a delay discounting task, a delay of gratification task, a sensation seeking measure, and IQ measures. In addition, teacher‐based assessments of attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder traits were measured. The results indicated that the majority of children produced meaningful data on the discounting task and discounted rewards hyperbolically. Children with an elevated risk of attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder showed a trend towards discounting future rewards on the delay discounting task more steeply than did those at low risk. However, delay discounting was unrelated to either delay of gratification or sensation seeking. We interpret these results as providing some support for the use of delay discounting as a measure of intertemporal choice in children, although the results also suggest that delay discounting and delay of gratification tasks may tap different processes in this population.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Early online date12 Sep 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Sep 2019


  • ADHD
  • delay discounting
  • delay of gratification
  • sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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