Children's Ability to Delay Gratification: Longitudinal Relations to Mother-Child Attachment

Teresa Jacobsen, Michael Huss, Michael Fendrich, Markus J.P. Kruesi, Ute Ziegenhain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Concurrent and longitudinal mother-child attachment qualities were studied in relation to children's ability to postpone gratification at age 6 years. A sample of 32 children (at ages 12 months and 18 months) and their mothers participated in the strange situation procedure. At age 6 years, they were observed in an attachment situation and administered a standard delay of gratification task. The length of time that children were able to delay gratification at age 6 was predicted both by concurrent attachment quality and by a longitudinal attachment measure. Children with secure attachment were able to wait the longest periods of time, whereas those with insecure-disorganized attachment had the most difficulties in waiting. The effects of longitudinal, but not concurrent, attachment quality on children's total waiting time remained significant when other important variables were considered, including gender and children's cognitive functioning. An interactive effect was found between attachment quality and cognitive functioning. Insecure-avoidantly attached children with high cognitive functioning did not differ in their overall waiting times from securely attached children, but insecure-avoidantly attached children with average or low cognitive functioning did have shorter waiting times. The study provides a basis for the further investigation of mother-child attachment quality as a factor that is linked to children's delay behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-426
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Genetic Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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