, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 191-204

Hyperactivity and frustration: The influence of control over and size of rewards in delaying gratification

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Abstract

This study examined the differential effects of frustration on normal children and those diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity. Each group consisted of 16 boys between the ages of 6 and 8 years who were prematched for age, grade, and classroom placement. All children completed a series of arithmetic problems in order to earn toy rewards. Using a variant of Mischel's (1974) delay-of-gratification paradigm, children were presented with two choice-of-delay conditions in a randomly assigned, counterbalanced sequence: (1) a free-choice conflict situation involving a longpassive or short-active reward delay, and (2) a short-active delay. Results showed that a significantly greater proportion of hyperactive children chose to complete problems for an immediate reward compared to their normal control counterparts (p < .01). Group differences were no longer apparent in the short-active delay trial. The results are discussed in terms of frustration tolerance and contributing factors such as cognitive-attentional style. Implications for treatment and future directions are delineated.