Disappointment is the result of unmet expectations, and is often accompanied by frustration, anger, sadness, and/or withdrawal. According to Dr. Ilona Roth, noted author on autism spectrum disorders and senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University UK, children begin to show elements of imagination at as early as one year of age, and, by two or three year of age, are conjuring thoughts about what might happen (or even what could really never happen). As a consequence, they develop expectations early about disappointment and begin to develop coping mechanisms upon which they will rely for the rest of their lives.
Failure to teach a child to handle disappointment appropriately can result in a teenager or adult who is “disappointment averse.” As a consequence, they give up easily or quit trying, reinforcing the sense of failure and causing them to feel incompetent and inadequate. Without encouragement and help in learning how to overcome their emotions, they can spiral downward into self-pity and depression, unwilling to take any risks because of the fear of more disappointment.