Sex Roles

, Volume 49, Issue 9–10, pp 451–463 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Delay of Gratification: A Meta-Analysis

  • Irwin W. Silverman


A series of meta-analyses were conducted to test Bjorklund and Kipp's hypothesis that due to selection pressures operating during evolution, women and girls are better able than men and boys to delay gratification (Bjorklund & Kipp, 1996). A total of 38 effect sizes were derived from 33 studies in which participants made one or more choices between a small (or less preferred) immediate reward and a large (or more preferred) delayed reward. Overall, there was a small female advantage (r = .058). Further analyses revealed that the female advantage was larger when continuous measures (r = .096) rather than dichotomous measures were used (r = .021). No evidence was found for the gender gap changing systematically with age. Discussion focuses primarily on alternative explanations for the gender difference found here. Consideration is also given to how the female advantage in delay of gratification might be reflected in real-life situations.

delay of gratification sex differences age differences meta-analysis 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, W. H., Jr. (1974). Self-control as used in a delay of gratification paradigm with children. Unpublished dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, M. B. (1977). The effect of internal and external distractors on self-imposed delay of gratification. Unpublished dissertation, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.Google Scholar
  3. Ayduk, O., Mendoza-Denton, R., Mischel, W., & Downey, G. (2000). Regulating the interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 776–792.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A., & Mischel, W. (1965). Modification of self-imposed delay of reward through exposure to live and symbolic models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 698–705.Google Scholar
  5. Bjorklund, D. F., & Kipp, K. (1996). Parental investment theory and gender differences in the evolution of inhibition mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 163–188.Google Scholar
  6. Bochner, S., & David, K. H. (1968). Delay of gratification, age, and intelligence in aboriginal culture. International Journal of Psychology, 3, 167–174.Google Scholar
  7. Byrnes, J. P., Miller, D. C., & Schafer, W. D. (1999). Gender differences in risk taking: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 367–383.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.Google Scholar
  9. Corfield, V., Al-Issa, I., & Johnson, B. (1976). Effects of verbal cues on the delay of gratification. Journal of Psychology, 94, 167–171.Google Scholar
  10. Drucker, L. (1982). The effects of age, cognitive strategy, type of controlling speech and reward preference in delay of gratification. Unpublished dissertation, Hofstra University,Hempstead, NY.Google Scholar
  11. Eagly, A. H., & Steffen, V. J. (1986). Gender and aggressive behavior: A meta-analytic review of the social psychological literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 309–330.Google Scholar
  12. Eisenberg, N., & Fabes, R. A. (1998). Prosocial development. In W. Damon (Gen. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 701–778). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  13. Feingold, A. (1994). Gender differences in personality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 429–456.Google Scholar
  14. Ferrarese, M. J. (1981). Reflectiveness-impulsivity and competence in children under stress. Unpublished dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.Google Scholar
  15. Flynn, T. M. (1975). Behavioral components of school readiness. Journal of Experimental Education, 44, 40–45.Google Scholar
  16. Fry, P. S., & Preston, J. (1980). Children's delay of gratification as a function of task contingency and the reward-related contents of task. Journal of Social Psychology, 11, 281–291.Google Scholar
  17. Funder, D. C., & Block, J. (1989). The role of ego-control, ego-resiliency, and IQ in delay of gratification in adolescence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1041–1050.Google Scholar
  18. Furnham, A. (1999). The saving and spending habits of young people. Journal of Economic Psychology, 20, 677–697.Google Scholar
  19. Geary, D. C. (2000). Evolution and proximate expression of human parental investment. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 55–77.Google Scholar
  20. Godoy, R., & Jacobson, M. (1999). Covariates of private time preference: A pilot study among the Tsimane' Indians of the Bolivian rain forest. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 249–256.Google Scholar
  21. Grusec, J. (1968). Waiting for reward and punishment: Effects of reinforcement value on choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 85–89.Google Scholar
  22. Haddock, C. K., Rindskopf, D., & Shadish, W. R. (1998). Using odds ratios as effect sizes for meta-analysis of dichotomous data: A primer on methods and issues. Psychological Bulletin, 3, 339–353.Google Scholar
  23. Hayes, W. L. (1963). Statistics for psychologists. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  24. Hedges, L. V., & Becker, B. J. (1986). Statistical methods in meta-analysis of research on gender differences. In J. S. Hyde & M. C. Linn (Eds.), The psychology of gender (pp. 14–50). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Herzberger, S., & Dweck, C. S. (1978). Attraction and delay of gratification. Journal of Personality, 46, 215–227.Google Scholar
  26. Hrdy, S. B. (1999). Mother nature: A history of mothers, infants, and natural selection. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  27. Hyde, J. S. (1996). Where are the gender differences? Where are the gender similarities? In D. M. Buss & N. M. Malmouth (Eds.), Sex, power, and conflict (pp. 107–118). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jacobsen, T. (1998). Delay behavior at age six: Links to maternal expressed emotion. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159, 117–120.Google Scholar
  29. Jacobsen, T., Huss, M., Fendrich, M., Kruesi, M., & Ziegenhain, U. (1997). Children's ability to delay gratification: Longitudinal relations to mother-child attachment. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 158, 411–426.Google Scholar
  30. Kelman, S. M. (1972). Locus of control and delay of gratification. Unpublished dissertation, Boston University, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  31. Kirby, K. N., Godoy, R., Reyes-Garcia, V., Byron, E., Apaza, L., Leonard, W., et al. (2002). Correlates of delay-discount rates: Evidence from Tsimane' Amerindians of the Bolivian forest. Journal of Economic Psychology, 23, 291–316.Google Scholar
  32. Kirby, K. N., & Marakovic, N. N. (1995). Modeling myopic decisions: Evidence for hyperbolic delay discounting within subjects and amounts. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 64, 22–30.Google Scholar
  33. Klaus, R. A., & Gray, S. W. (1968). The early training project for disadvantaged children: A report after five years. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 33 (Serial No. 120).Google Scholar
  34. Kling, K. C., Hyde, J. S., Showers, C. J., & Buswell, B. N. (1999). Gender differences in self-esteem: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 470–500.Google Scholar
  35. Kochanska, G., Murray, K., Jacques, T. Y., Koenig, A. L., & Vandegeest, K. A. (1996). Inhibitory control in young children and its role in emerging internalization. Child Development, 67, 490–507.Google Scholar
  36. Kreitler, S., & Zigler, E. (1990). Motivational determinants of children's probability learning. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 151, 301–316.Google Scholar
  37. Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Logue, A. W., & Chavarro, A. (1992). Self-control and impulsiveness in preschool children. Psychological Record, 42, 189–204.Google Scholar
  39. Lomranz, J., Shmotkin, D., & Katznelson, D. B. (1983). Coherence as a measure of future time perspective in children and its relation to delay of gratification and social class. International Journal of Psychology, 18, 407–413.Google Scholar
  40. McGavin, J. T., III. (1979). The effects of task persistence, an imposed goal, self-monitoring, and reward preference on the ability to delay gratification. Unpublished dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.Google Scholar
  41. Mischel, W. (1961a). Delay of gratification, need for achievement, and acquiescence to another culture. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62, 543–552.Google Scholar
  42. Mischel, W. (1961b). Father-absence and delay of gratification. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 116–124.Google Scholar
  43. Mischel, W. (1961c). Preference for delayed reinforcement and social responsibility. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62, 1–7.Google Scholar
  44. Mischel, W. (1974). Cognitive appraisal and transformations in self-control. In B. Weiner (Ed.), Cognitive views of human motivation (pp. 33–49). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  45. Mischel, W., & Ebbesen, E. B. (1970). Attention in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 329–337.Google Scholar
  46. Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E. B., & Zeiss, A. R. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 204–218.Google Scholar
  47. Mischel, W., & Grusec, J. (1967). Waiting for rewards and punishments: Effects of time and probability on choices. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 24–31.Google Scholar
  48. Mischel, W., & Metzer, R. (1962). Preference for delayed rewards as a function of age, intelligence and length of delay interval. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 64, 425–431.Google Scholar
  49. Mischel, H. N., & Mischel, W. (1983). The development of children's knowledge of self-control strategies. Child Development, 54, 603–619.Google Scholar
  50. Mischel, W., & Moore, B. S. (1973). Effects of attention to symbolically presented rewards on self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 172–179.Google Scholar
  51. Mischel, W., & Moore, B. S. (1980). The role of ideation in voluntary delay for symbolically presented rewards. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4, 211–221.Google Scholar
  52. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 687–696.Google Scholar
  53. Mischel, W., & Underwood, B. (1974). Instrumental ideation in delay of gratification. Child Development, 45, 1083–1088.Google Scholar
  54. Montgomery, G. T. (1976). Delay of gratification in children: A function of magnitude of reward and the delay cue. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 21, 549–555.Google Scholar
  55. Moore, B. S., Clyburn, A., & Underwood, B. (1976). The role of affect in delay of gratification. Child Development, 47, 273–276.Google Scholar
  56. Nisan, M. (1974). Imposed inhibition and delay of gratification. Child Development, 45, 1089–1092.Google Scholar
  57. Nisan, M. (1976). Delay of gratification in children: Personal versus group choices. Child Development, 47, 195–200.Google Scholar
  58. Nisan, M., & Koriat, A. (1984). The effect of cognitive restructuring on delay of gratification. Child Development, 55, 492–503.Google Scholar
  59. Olsen, R., & Cox, C. M. (2001). The influence of gender on the perception and response to investment risk: The case of professional investors. Journal of Psychology and Financial Markets, 2, 29–36.Google Scholar
  60. Olson, S. L. (1989). Assessment of impulsivity in preschoolers: Cross-measure convergences, longitudinal stability, and relevance to social competence. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 18, 176–183.Google Scholar
  61. Olson, S. L., Schilling, E. M., & Bates, J. E. (1999). Measurement of impulsivity: Construct coherence, longitudinal stability, and relationship with externalizing problems in middle childhood and adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 51–165.Google Scholar
  62. Paulsen, K., & Johnson, M. (1980). Impulsivity: A multidimensional concept with developmental aspects. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 8, 269–277.Google Scholar
  63. Randolph-Johnson, B. (1977). The utilization of verbal self-instructions as self-controlling responses in a delay of gratification paradigm. Unpublished dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS.Google Scholar
  64. Raudenbush, S. W. (1994). Random effects models. In H. Cooper & L. V. Hedges (Eds.), The handbook of research synthesis (pp. 301–321). New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Ritchie, F., & Toner, I. J. (1984). Direct labeling, tester expectancy and delay maintenance behavior in Scottish preschool children. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 7, 333–341.Google Scholar
  66. Rosenthal, R. (1991). Meta-analytic procedures for social research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  67. Rosenthal, R. (1995). Writing meta-analytic reviews. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 183–192.Google Scholar
  68. Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1982). A simple, general purpose display of magnitude of experimental effect. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 166–169.Google Scholar
  69. Rotenberg, K. J., & Mayer, E.V. (1990). Delay of gratification in Native and White children: A cross-cultural comparison. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 13, 23–30.Google Scholar
  70. Rubenstein, C. (1998). The sacrificial mother. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  71. Schack, M. L., & Massari, D. J. (1973). Effects of temporal aids on delay of gratification. Developmental Psychology, 8, 168–171.Google Scholar
  72. Schwarz, J. C., & Pollack, P. R. (1977). Affect and delay of gratification. Journal of Research in Personality, 11, 147–164.Google Scholar
  73. Schwarz, J. C., Schrager, J. B., & Lyons, A. E. (1983). Delay of gratification by preschoolers: Evidence for the validity of the choice paradigm. Child Development, 54, 620–625.Google Scholar
  74. Seeman, G., & Schwarz, J. C. (1974). Affective state and preference for immediate versus delayed reward. Journal of Research in Personality, 7, 384–394.Google Scholar
  75. Sethi, A., Mischel, W., Aber, J. L., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. L. (2000). The role of strategic attention deployment in development of self-regulation: Predicting preschoolers' delay of gratification from mother–toddler interactions. Developmental Psychology, 36, 767–777.Google Scholar
  76. Shipman, V. C. (1972). Disadvantaged children and their first school experience (Technical Rep. No. 12). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar
  77. Simpson, M. L. (1982). Time-of-day effects in performance by seventh grade students on two measures of impulse control. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 55, 115–121.Google Scholar
  78. Sonuga-Barke, E. J. S., Taylor, E., Sembi, S., & Smith, J. (1992). Hyperactivity and delay aversion I: The effects of delay on choice. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 387–398.Google Scholar
  79. Staub, E. (1972). Effects of persuasion and modeling on delay of gratification. Developmental Psychology, 6, 166–173.Google Scholar
  80. Strickland, B. R. (1972). Delay of gratification as a function of race of the experimenter. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 108–112.Google Scholar
  81. Strickland, B. R. (1973). Delay of gratification and internal locus of control in children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 40, 338.Google Scholar
  82. Thompson, C., Barresi, J., & Moore, C. (1997). The development of future-oriented prudence and altruism in preschoolers. Cognitive Development, 12, 199–212.Google Scholar
  83. Toner, I., Holstein, R. B., & Hetherington, E. M. (1977). Reflection-impulsivity and self-control in preschool children. Child Development, 48, 239–25.Google Scholar
  84. Toner, I., & Ritchie, F. K. (1984). American-Sign-Language statements and delay of gratification in hearing-impaired and nonhandicapped children. Journal of General Psychology, 110, 155–164.Google Scholar
  85. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871–1971 (pp. 136–179). Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  86. Trommsdorff, G., & Schmidt-Rinke, M. (1980). Individual and situational characteristics as determinants of delay of gratification. Archiv fuer Psychologie, 133, 263–275.Google Scholar
  87. Vellenkoop, R. (1981). Self-control in delay of gratification: The effects of a goal contingency and response feedback in delay time and active work. Unpublished dissertation, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.Google Scholar
  88. Walls, R. T. (1971). Delay of reinforcement development. Child Development, 44, 689–692.Google Scholar
  89. Weisz, J. R. (1978). Choosing problem-solving rewards and Halloween prizes: Delay of gratification and preferences for symbolic reward as a function of development, motivation, and personal investment. Developmental Psychology, 14, 66–78.Google Scholar
  90. Wulfert, E., Block, J. A., Santa Ana, E., Rodriguez, M. L., & Colsman, M. (2002). Delay of gratification: Impulsive choices and problem behaviors in early and late adolescence. Journal of Personality, 70, 533–552.Google Scholar
  91. Yates, G. C., Lippert, R. M., & Yates, S. M. (1981). The effects of age, positive affect induction, and instructions on children'sdelay of gratification. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 32, 169–180.Google Scholar
  92. Zytkoskee, A., Strickland, B. R., & Watson, J. (1971). Delay of gratification and internal versus external control among adolescents of low socioeconomic status. Developmental Psychology, 4, 93–98.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irwin W. Silverman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling Green

Personalised recommendations