Gambling and the trait of addiction in a sample of New Zealand university students
New Zealand Journal of Psychology, Jun 2003 by Clarke, Dave
Continued from page 4.
Some suggestions offered by Winters et al. (1995) to minimize the effects of gambling on youth could be applied to New Zealand. Families and whanau of adolescents and children at risk of becoming problem gamblers need to be educated about their modelling role and the need for safe and non-addictive gambling rules in their homes. Because the risk factors for problem gambling and substance abuse are very similar, education about both and sources for help could be integrated into school programmes, beginning at the primary level, to target the groups who are at risk. Gupta and Derevensky (1998) suggested that education programmes targeting at-risk substance abusers should also include gambling, and that building self-esteem, treating depression, and family interventions could make efficient use of professional resources.
In the recent national survey (Amey, 2001), many people stated that they would play "less" or "much less" if gaming activities had warnings about problem gambling on or with the activities. Like cigarette packages, gaming activities should have warnings attached to them, so that perhaps the level of involvement might be reduced. Although none of them met the criteria for problem gambling, 25 of the students were underage when they had gambled in New Zealand casinos. Therefore, in addition to warnings, underage gambling laws regarding casino entry, sales of lottery tickets and other regulated gambling sources, need to be strictly enforced.
Some of the treatment programmes for pathological gamblers (e.g., Ladouceur et al., 2002; Sullivan, 1994b) include elements borrowed from the Alcoholics Anonymous programme, such as group confessions and the "buddy" system. Problem gamblers have been successfully treated with alcoholics and substance abusers (Murray, 1993), thus lending support to the concept of an addictive personality trait.
The extent of gambling and problem gambling in the present sample of highly educated, mostly female students was unexpected. In contrast to North American findings in which young urban college males are at risk of being problem gamblers, the present results show that even young urban females in university may be at risk too. Gaming machines are particularly attractive to problem gamblers. In this unrepresentative sample, except for differences between sociodemographic groups, the differences between problem gamblers and non-problem gamblers on all of the relevant variables were significant, confirming results from other investigations. Even when the contribution of these variables in the classification of problem and non-problem gamblers was controlled, there was some evidence that the trait of addiction seems to be involved in problem gambling as it may be for other addictive behaviours. For most of the students, however, problem gambling symptoms will probably decrease with maturity. A minority will continue to become pathological gamblers.
This research was supported by a grant from the Massey University Research Fund and information from the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand.
I am grateful to Stuart Carr for comments on an earlier version of this article.
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