Gambling and Its Antecedents


Gambling involves risking something of value (usually money) on an event that relies on chance and can be conducted in a wide variety of ways, from buying a lottery ticket to betting with friends. It is a huge international commercial activity, regulated and taxed in many jurisdictions. In some places it is a major source of employment and is closely associated with tourism. In others, it is more illegal and unregulated. Gambling can be a fun and rewarding activity, but it can also have serious negative consequences. These can include harm to physical and mental health, strained or broken relationships, poor work and study performance, financial problems and even homelessness.

Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children, this article aimed to explore patterns of gambling behaviour among young people and identify antecedents. Participants completed computer-administered gambling surveys at three time points. Due to attrition, the sample of non-responders was skewed and the analyses probably underestimated the prevalence of gambling behavior. However, multiple imputation techniques were used to minimize bias from missing data. This approach also allowed the possibility of trajectory analysis, but models were found to have very low statistical fit and minor slope heterogeneity, so they were not implemented in full.

The majority of those who reported regular gambling at 17 years continued to gamble regularly at 20 and 24 years, although the types of activities they engaged in varied. Overall, the frequency of gambling did not vary between these two age groups but there was increased use of online gambling and betting on horseraces at 24 years. Individual antecedents that were significantly associated with regular gambling at each of the three time points included being male, and having a low childhood IQ, a high external locus of control and higher sensation seeking scores.

Posted in: Gambling