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Definition of Delay of Gratification

What is Delay of Gratification?

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Updated July 02, 2010

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Definition: Delay of gratification refers to the ability to put off the receipt of an immediate reward in order to gain a better reward later.

Example of Delay of Gratification

Delay of gratification refers to the ability to put off the receipt of a reward in order to gain a better reward later. For instance, say that a tween is supposed to be working on a final project for social studies class. Her parents have told her that if she earns all Bs and As in her classes, they'll take her out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. But tonight her favorite TV show is on and she wants to watch it. She knows that if she watches the TV show, her project will suffer. Does she take the immediate reward (watching the show) or does she choose to instead work on the project tonight so that she can get the dinner she wants in the future? This is a question of her ability to handle delay of gratification.

Delay of gratification steadily improves from the early childhood years into adolescence. Individuals often do not internalize delay of gratification until the teen years or later. In other words, children and tweens typically need external guidance to help them choose the later, better reward over the immediate, small reward. This means that parental supervision of homework and other delayed feedback tasks is essential during the childhood and tween years.

Also Known As: "deferred gratification" or "delay of gratification"

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