Age differences in future orientation and delay discounting

Child Dev. 2009 Jan-Feb;80(1):28-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01244.x.


Age differences in future orientation are examined in a sample of 935 individuals between 10 and 30 years using a delay discounting task as well as a new self-report measure. Younger adolescents consistently demonstrate a weaker orientation to the future than do individuals aged 16 and older, as reflected in their greater willingness to accept a smaller reward delivered sooner than a larger one that is delayed, and in their characterizations of themselves as less concerned about the future and less likely to anticipate the consequences of their decisions. Planning ahead, in contrast, continues to develop into young adulthood. Future studies should distinguish between future orientation and impulse control, which may have different neural underpinnings and follow different developmental timetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Orientation*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Reward*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Time Perception*
  • Young Adult