Maternal Gambling, Parenting, and Child Behavioral Functioning in Native American Families

By Momper, Sandra L.; Jackson, Aurora P. | Social Work Research, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Maternal Gambling, Parenting, and Child Behavioral Functioning in Native American Families


Momper, Sandra L., Jackson, Aurora P., Social Work Research


Using data from a sample of 150 Native American mothers of a child 6 to 15 years old, this study examined the relations between and among mothers' gambling, parenting in the home environment, social supports, and child behavior problems. Respondents were recruited from a tribal casino on a Great Lakes Indian reservation. Results indicate that behavior problems in Native American children in the context of maternal gambling were associated with greater financial strain, less adequate parenting in the home environment, and the child's age. However, these results were conditioned by frequency of mother's gambling, amount of social support from family available to the mother, and child's gender. Implications of these findings for policy, practice, and future research are discussed.

KEY WORDS: casino gambling; child behavior problems; children's development; Native American mothers; parenting

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Since the passage of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Native American tribes have set up gaming operations in large numbers. Financial proceeds from these operations are enormous, reaching by some estimates as much as $14.5 billion (National Indian Gaming Association, 2005). Although increased revenues from gambling have benefited tribes (see, for example, Costello, Compton, Keeler, & Angold, 2003), problem gambling among Native Americans has increased, especially among Native American women (Volberg & Abbott, 1997).There is evidence that parental problem gambling has negative effects on children. For example, studies have shown that children of problem gamblers experience a loss of emotional and financial support and have inadequate coping skills, poor interpersonal relationship skills, and serious behavior problems (Custer & Milt, 1985; Darbyshire, Oster,& Carrig, 2001; Ladouceur, Boisvert, Pepin, Loranger, & Sylvain, 1994; Lorenz, 1987). However, because none of these studies included Native Americans in their samples, little is known about the associations between and among mothers' gambling, parenting in the home environment, and child outcomes in Native American families. Using data gathered at a tribal casino on a Great Lakes Indian reservation, this study attempts to reduce this deficit in the literature. Four questions were addressed:

1. Is maternal gambling associated with Native American children's behavioral functioning?

2. Are access to helpful social support and more adequate parenting in the home environment associated with children's behavioral functioning in Native American families in which mothers gamble?

3. Is the effect of maternal gambling on children's behavioral functioning moderated by mothers' access to helpful social support and more adequate parenting in the home environment?

4. Is the child's gender a factor in the relationships between maternal gambling and parenting and children's behavioral functioning?

We were also interested in the mothers' perceptions of financial strain because even though the casino has helped this Great Lakes tribe gain revenue, the tribe remains the poorest in the state (Jensen-DeHart, 1999).These issues were examined using the ecological theoretical perspective as an overarching framework.

THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Because Native Americans practice balance in their ecosystems and place a great deal of importance on human ecology through tribal structures, clan formation, and family interdependence (Good Tracks, 1973; Joe, 1989; Red Horse, 1980), the ecological theoretical perspective--encompassing microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, and macrosystems (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994)--is particularly appropriate as an overarching framework for this investigation. More explicitly, some have posited that Native American children are born into two relational systems, a biological family and a kinship network such as a clan or band (Blanchard & Barsh, 1980). …

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