Longitudinal links between delinquent behaviour and gambling: from adolescence to early adulthood



This article attempts to test the following hypothesis:

whereas delinquent behaviour and gambling problems share common risk factors, a prevention program aimed at reducing early risk factors for delinquency should also have an impact on gambling problems. The prevention program in question included three components: a parent-centred component aimed at improving parents' disciplinary strategies and the parent-child bond, a child-centred component aimed at improving the child's socio-cognitive skills, and a teacher-centred component aimed at behaviour management and the promotion of academic achievement.

The boys who took part in the program exhibited fewer behavioural problems and learning difficulties.

The program participants were boys whose kindergarten teachers rated them as aggressive and impulsive. The boys, their families and their teachers took part in the prevention program for a period of two years, when the boys were between the ages of 7 and 9. The results during preadolescence showed that the boys who took part in the program exhibited fewer behavioural problems and learning difficulties than those in a randomly allocated control group. Furthermore, they received better parental supervision and had less of a tendency to associate with deviant friends, common risk factors for delinquent behaviour and gambling problems.

With respect to delinquent behaviour, the results showed that the boys who took part in the prevention program showed lower rates of delinquent behaviour throughout adolescence than those in the control group. Their likelihood of having a criminal record in early adulthood was also lower compared to those in the control group, although the difference proved to be statistically insignificant.

The results with regard to gambling problems follow a strikingly similar pattern: the boys in the test group experienced less problems during adolescence compared with those in the control group, but there was no significant difference between the two groups by early adulthood. These results are in agreement with the starting hypothesis that a generic preventive intervention targeting common risk factors for delinquent behaviour and gambling problems can produce positive results on both fronts. However, this effect is limited to adolescence. There appears to be a need for a different and possibly complementary approach when it comes to delinquency and gambling problems in early adulthood.

Main researcher

Frank Vitaro, Université de Montréal

Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: January 2007