What is it about?

The notion that future-oriented decision-making (i.e., the ability to delay gratification for a larger future reward) is a positive, desirable, and adaptive skill is well established in the psychological literature, but how representative is it for people growing up in low socioeconomic backgrounds? This paper examines decision-making in children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Whereas children from middle/high-SES backgrounds exhibited future-oriented strategies, their low-SES peers did not act in a full future-oriented or long-term manner. Notably, our findings did not appear to be explained by any underlying deficit (e.g., reasoning capabilities). Low-SES children continue showing risky behaviors oriented toward immediate gain despite exhibiting explicit knowledge about which option carried higher risk.

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Why is it important?

Within the traditional deficit-based approach it is common to find the expressions “shortsightedness” or “myopia for the future” to describe a here-and-now preference. This tendency has contributed to strengthening a view of development in resource-poor contexts based on the notions of deficit and maladaptation. A key limitation of this approach is that sometimes the behaviors that emerge in stressful and poor resource environments can be adaptive and contextually functional in response to ecological challenges rather than a deficit.


Building a new theoretical framework that overcomes the hegemony of the deficit-based approaches is a challenging task for the researcher community. Personally, the more I move away from my field, the more I am convinced that transdisciplinarity is its main condition of possibility. On the way, we must be careful not to promote narratives that tend to naturalize growing up in poverty. The infantilization of poverty is an alarming issue that demands immediate global efforts to eradicate it.

Hernán Delgado
Universidad de la Republica Uruguay

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This page is a summary of: Socioeconomic status differences in children’s affective decision-making: The role of awareness in the Children’s Gambling Task., Developmental Psychology, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/dev0001382.
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