Adolescent Gambling and Problem Gambling: A New Zealand Study

Article excerpt

The prevalence of gambling and problem gambling among adolescents in New Zealand has not been adequately investigated. Prospective studies of current underage gambling may be unreliable, because respondents may fear self-incrimination. In this retrospective study, a non-representative sample of 68 first year psychology students, between the ages of 15 and 24 years, completed a questionnaire which asked them to recall their gambling activities before the age of 20 years, and which included the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS). In adolescence, the entire sample had gambled for money at least once, and 18% regularly. Participants who played housie (bingo), gambled in casinos, or bought Lotto tickets, had the highest spending rates. 13% of the sample was classified as problem gamblers and 5% probable pathological gamblers in adolescence. Activities associated with pathological gambling included scratch tickets, gaming machines and housie. Regular gambling significantly predicted problem gambling scores. The results were compared with findings from a national sample and adolescent samples overseas.

Recent research in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (Buchta, 1995; Fisher, 1993; Jacobs, 1989, cited in Winters, Stinchfield, & Kim, 1995; Ladouceur, Dube, & Bujold, 1994; Lesieur et al., 1991; Shaffer & Hall, 1996) indicates that prevalence rates for adolescent gambling and for adolescent problem gambling are higher than for adult populations. Estimates of adolescent problem gambling range from one and a half to more than three times as high as for the adult population. The vast majority (85 to 95%) of adolescents have gambled for money at least once. Prevalence of gambling and problem gambling among adolescent males is usually greater than among female adolescents (Buchta, 1995; Jacobs, 1989, cited in Winters et al., 1995; Ladouceur et al., 1994; Winters, Stinchfield, & Fulkerson, 1993a, 1993b). Adolescent males may spend more than adolescent females on lottery tickets (Browne & Brown, 1994; Ladouceur et al., 1994) but not on fruit machines (Fisher, 1993).

For some adolescent problem gamblers, gambling is associated with a number of problems. First, research suggests that a direct relationship exists between age of onset of underage gambling and the severity of future gambling problems (Abbott & Volberg, 1996; Bergh, & Kuhlhorn, 1994; Fisher, 1993; Griffiths, 1995a, 1995b; Ladouceur and Mireault, 1988; Stinchfield & Winters, 1994, cited in Winters, et al., 1995). Second, empirical investigations have consistently shown that adolescent pathological gambling is positively related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and addictive substances, to substance abuse, and to criminality including stealing, drug pushing, and prostitution (Arcuri, Lester, & Smith, 1985; Browne & Brown, 1994; Fisher, 1993; Griffiths, 1990, Jacobs, 1987; cited in Radecki, 1994; Ladouceur et al., 1994; Lesieur & Heineman, 1988, cited in Buchta, 1995; Shaffer & Hall, 1996; Winters, et al., 1993b). Other problems include suicide attempts, disruptions to relationships with family and friends, and educational difficulties such as truancy and poor academic performance (Browne & Brown, 1994; Fisher, 1993; Griffiths, 1990; Ladouceur et al., 1994; Shaffer, LaBrie, Scanlan, & Cummings, 1994; Winters et al., 1993b).

In the United Kingdom, Fisher (1993) found that 10% of adolescents who played on fruit machines had fallen out with close friends and family as a direct consequence of their gambling. However, the causal relationship between gambling and family problems could be the reverse. Another study found that the majority of adolescent gambling machine players reported that family problems precipitated their addiction (Dickerson, 1984, cited in Bentall, Fisher, Kelly, Bromley, & Hawksworth, 1989). The severity of adolescent gambling problems is associated with gambling regularly and with the amount of money spent (Winters et al. …