“Gambling behavior begins early: by pre-adolescence, 15% of boys and 5% of girls have already become involved in daily or weekly gambling,” said Frank Vitaro and Brigitte Wanner of the University of Montreal. “There is accumulating evidence suggesting that diverse bio-behavioral elements are involved in gambling.” The researchers, who conducted a study on 1125 children to determine what behaviors predicted problem gambling, looked specifically at the behavioral activation system (BAS) and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). “The BIS is sensitive to punishment and has been hypothesized as the neurological basis for the experience of anxiety. A low or weak BIS is reflected in low inhibition, low sensitivity to punishment, and low anxiety,” said the team. “In contrast, the BAS is sensitive to reward and is thought to control approach motivation and goal-oriented behavior. A high or strong BAS is reflected in high dis-inhibition, strong sensitivity to reward, and high impulsivity.”
The researchers noted that having a high BAS and a weak BIS could directly influence problem gambling. Additionally, the presence of parent gambling was examined to determine its effect on the behavior of the children. The team assessed the children when they were 6, 7 and 8, and evaluated their dispositions based on teacher’s reports. At age 8, the gambling behaviors of the children and their parents were measured. When the children reached the age of 10, they completed their own self-reports evaluating their gambling behavior. The results of the study revealed that for both boys and girls, impulsivity, as reported by the teachers, was directly linked to problem gambling. “In addition, low anxiety predicted early gambling behavior, above and beyond impulsivity and control variables, albeit only in boys,” said the team. They added, “However, parent gambling participation, but not problems, additively predicted early gambling for boys and for girls. “ In conclusion, the team explained how these results could help children with gambling issues. “Prevention programs targeting children’s personal dispositions and/or parent gambling could help uncover the possible causal role played by these early risk factors.”
Vitaro, Frank, and Brigitte Wanner. “Predicting Early Gambling in Children.” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 25.1 (2011): 118-26. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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