Parents, but not their children, demonstrate greater delay discounting with resource scarcity

Alyssa M. Button, Rocco A. Paluch, Kenneth B. Schechtman, Denise E. Wilfley, Nancy Geller, Teresa Quattrin, Stephen R. Cook, Ihouma U. Eneli, Leonard H. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals with obesity tend to discount the future (delay discounting), focusing on immediate gratification. Delay discounting is reliably related to indicators of economic scarcity (i.e., insufficient resources), including lower income and decreased educational attainment in adults. It is unclear whether the impact of these factors experienced by parents also influence child delay discounting between the ages of 8 and 12-years in families with obesity. Methods: The relationship between indices of family income and delay discounting was studied in 452 families with parents and 6–12-year-old children with obesity. Differences in the relationships between parent economic, educational and Medicaid status, and parent and child delay discounting were tested. Results: Results showed lower parent income (p = 0.019) and Medicaid status (p = 0.021) were differentially related to greater parent but not child delay discounting among systematic responders. Conclusions: These data suggest differences in how indicators of scarcity influence delay discounting for parents and children, indicating that adults with scarce resources may be shaped to focus on immediate needs instead of long-term goals. It is possible that parents can reduce the impact of economic scarcity on their children during preadolescent years. These findings suggest a need for policy change to alleviate the burden of scarce conditions and intervention to modify delay discounting rate and to improve health-related choices and to address weight disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1983
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Delay discounting
  • Obesity
  • Scarcity
  • Socioeconomic status


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