Sibling influence - the key to preventing problem gambling in kids?

Gambling Research Australia study Children at Risk of Developing Problem Gambling has found that the influence a child’s brothers and sisters might have in that child developing gambling problems is a key area for future research.

A literature review carried out as part of the project revealed a significant number of adolescent gamblers said their siblings introduced them to gambling.

In addition, adolescent gamblers said they regularly gamble with their siblings, while adult problem gamblers reported high rates of gambling problems for their siblings.

As well as a literature review, the project carried out four separate studies, surveying adults and children, to develop a methodology to analyse how being exposed to risk added to the development of problem gambling in individuals raised in problem gambling families.

A key finding that resulted from the four studies was that 7.3 per cent to 10 per cent of participants were raised in families where either a parent or a sibling was a problem gambler.

Studies one, two and three found that a child or adult child having any family member with a gambling problem had a high possibility of also becoming a problem gambler.

In the studies, participants with a family history of problem gambling were 2.3 to 9.6 times more likely to display problem gambling behaviour.

Researchers concluded from these (and other) results that the risk of a child with a family-member problem gambler developing a gambling problem is at a level that justifies treatment and government intervention.

Researchers suggest three levels of guidelines for the development of intervention strategies or programs for children at risk of developing problem gambling, including:

  • Primary prevention
    • Community-based approaches include media campaigns, adult/youth/health professional education.
    • School-based programs focused on gambling expectancies, coping, social normalisation of gambling, and drug use.
  • Secondary prevention
    • Community service settings: Routine screening and a service response for a family history of problem gambling.
    • School-based initiatives such as support groups with peer leaders and/or personal coaches.
  • Tertiary prevention
    • Develop interventions for individuals raised in problem gambling families - 12-step programs, website support.
    • Family-oriented interventions like the Strengthening Families program for problem drinking and drug using families.

This research was carried out by the Melbourne Monash Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre and published in May 2010. The full report can be found here.