Original Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 442-455

First online:

If-Then Plans Benefit Delay of Gratification Performance in Children With and Without ADHD

  • Caterina GawrilowAffiliated withGerman Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), Center for Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk (IDeA), University of Frankfurt Email author 
  • , Peter M. GollwitzerAffiliated withNew York UniversityUniversity of Konstanz
  • , Gabriele OettingenAffiliated withNew York UniversityUniversity of Hamburg

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Children with impulse control deficits (i.e., children with ADHD) are known to have special problems with delaying gratifications. As making if-then plans (i.e., forming implementation intentions) has been found to benefit self-control even in individuals whose action control is chronically hampered (e.g., critical samples such as patients with frontal lobe damage, the elderly), we analyzed whether delay of gratification is facilitated in children with and without ADHD who have formed respective implementation intentions. In Study 1, forty-five inpatient children with ADHD (M age = 10.7 years) increased delay of gratification performance after having formed respective implementation intentions. Study 2 replicated this finding in an outpatient sample of children with ADHD (n = 47, M age = 10.3 years) and also in a comparison group of children without ADHD (n = 40, M age = 11.3 years). Results are discussed with respect to their implications for action control in children with ADHD as well as research on implementation intentions and delay of gratification.


If-then plans Self-control Delay aversion Delay of gratification ADHD