An experimental task to measure preschool children's frustration induced by having to wait unexpectedly: The role of sensitivity to delay and culture

Wendy Wing Ying Chan, Kathy Kar Man Shum, Johnny Downs, Edmund J.S. Sonuga-Barke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The ability to manage frustration induced by having to wait for valued outcomes emerges across childhood and is an important marker of self-regulatory capacity. However, approaches to measure this capacity in preschool children are lacking. In this study, we introduced a new task, the Preschool Delay Frustration Task (P-DeFT), designed specifically to identify children's behavioral and emotional markers of waiting-induced frustration during the imposed wait period and after the release from waiting. We then explored how waiting-induced frustration relates to individual differences in delay sensitivity and whether it differs between two cultural groups thought to have different attitudes toward children's conduct and performance: Hong Kong (HK) and the United Kingdom (UK). A total of 112 preschool children (mean age = 46.22 months) completed the P-DeFT in a quiet laboratory. Each trial had two stages; first, a button press elicited a Go signal; second, this Go signal allowed children to go to a “supermarket” to pick a target toy. On most trials, the Go signal occurred immediately on the first press. On 6 trials, an unexpected/unsignaled 5- or 10-s pre-Go-signal period was imposed. Frustration was indexed by performance (button presses and press duration), behavioral agitation, and negative affect during the pre-Go-signal wait period and the post-Go-signal shopping task. Parents rated their children's delay sensitivity. Waiting-related frustration expressed during both the pre-Go-signal wait period and the post-Go-signal task varied with (a) the length of wait and (b) individual differences in parent-rated delay sensitivity. UK children displayed more negative affect during delay than their HK counterparts, although the relationship between delay sensitivity and frustration was culturally invariant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105763
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume237
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Cultural differences
  • Delay aversion
  • Delay sensitivity
  • Frustration
  • Preschoolers
  • Waiting

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