Early gambling in children around the age of 10 years predicts gambling problems during adolescence and into adulthood.
But what do we know about the personal and socio-familial factors that predict early gambling behaviour? Virtually nothing. The two studies presented in this report have helped to overcome this lack of knowledge. The first study, involving a population of 1,125 children aged 10, showed that parent gambling was associated with early gambling at the age of 10. Two personal dispositions also predicted early gambling in children: low inhibition, indicated by a low anxiety level, and disinhibition, indicated by a high level of impulsivity. These dispositions and parent gambling appeared to operate in an additive (rather than interactive) mode in predicting early gambling in children. In this study, the family's socio-economic status was unrelated to early gambling in the children, and boys were more likely to engage in early gambling behaviour than girls.
The family's socio-economic status was unrelated to early gambling in the children.
The second study was carried out on 205 pairs of monozygotic twins. The use of monozygotic twins made it possible to control the role played by genetics and thus to highlight the influence, if any, of the environment. The results showed that certain parenting practices, such as punishment and coercion of preschool-aged children, predicted gambling participation at 10 years. They also predicted low academic achievement and behavioural self-regulation problems at the start of primary school which, in turn, predicted early gambling in children, mediating the link between parenting practices and early gambling.
In summary, through their gambling behaviour or their educative practices, parents constitute a significant risk factor for early gambling in their children. Certain personal dispositions in the children play a similar role. Together, these factors could be targeted by early prevention programs, especially as they are likely to predict not only gambling problems, but a variety of adaptation problems in young people.
Frank Vitaro, Université de Montréal
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Deposit of the research report: April 2010