Exploring pathways towards and away from problematic gambling.

Hearn, Natalie Louise (2019) Exploring pathways towards and away from problematic gambling. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This PhD aimed to explore the pathways towards and away from problem gambling. It intended to test key aspects of the Pathways towards Problem and Pathological Gambling Model (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002). In addition to the assessment of risk factors, it aimed to examine protective factors for gambling, that have had limited attention in the literature and in theoretical models. The research aimed to propose a model of gambling, inclusive of both risk and protective factors. Three studies were employed using student and gambling forum user samples.
Study one recruited 694 participants (204 students and 490 forum users; 522 men and 140 women) to initially explore key variables in Blaszczynski and Nower’s (2002) model, including gambling severity, gambling motives, anxiety and depression and drug and alcohol use. It also explored the utility of classifying gamblers into subgroups based on their primary motives for gambling. Multiple regression analyses were adopted to determine the associations of the key variables with problem gambling. Those with a primary social motive for gambling displayed less severe gambling and anxiety than those without a primary social motive. Participants within the primary coping subgroup displayed the most anxiety and depression. Those who gambled primarily to enhance positive affect reported severe gambling.
Study two examined whether there are subgroups of gamblers similar to the behaviourally conditioned and emotionally vulnerable subtypes (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002), utilising measures of gambling severity, anxiety and depression, impulsivity, gambling beliefs, negative life events and the association with others who gamble. It recruited 670 participants, which comprised of 404 gambling forum users and 265 students (422 men and 248 women). Using a Cluster Analysis, MANCOVA’s and a series of ANOVA’s, a group emerged similar to the behaviourally conditioned pathway, with lower levels of premorbid and current anxiety and depression, negative life events and impulsivity. Another group emerged, similar to the emotionally vulnerable pathway, comprising those who scored higher on each of these variables. In contrast to the prediction, those in the emotionally vulnerable sub-group reported more severe cognitive distortions than the behaviourally conditioned subgroup.
Study three aimed to build on studies one and two by exploring factors associated with the antisocial impulsivist pathway in the Pathways Model (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002), including gambling severity, impulsivity, psychopathy, anxiety and depression and offending behaviour. It also examined for the moderating effects of protective factors (satisfaction with life, social support, self-control and resilience) on the risk factors. Prior to the main study, a pilot study was undertaken to test the reliabilities and correlation coefficients of the measures being used (n = 88 men and 42 women). The main study recruited 579 participants (413 men and 166 women; 201 students and 378 gambling forum users). As predicted, three distinct gambler subgroups emerged. Using MANOVA and ANCOVA analyses, it was found that the first of these subgroups comprised individuals reporting lower levels of psychopathology and the highest levels of protective factors. The second were characterised by heightened pre-existing anxiety and depression, and moderate levels of protective factors. The third subtype of gamblers were distinguished by heightened impulsivity, the most severe psychopathy and offending behaviour and the least protective factors. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis with the protective factors as interaction terms revealed that life satisfaction and social support moderated the relationships between impulsivity and gambling severity. Furthermore, social support and self-control moderated the relationships between psychopathy and gambling severity.
The thesis postulates a preliminary model that integrates gambling related risk and protective factors into a theoretical framework. Awareness of the different subgroups of gambler will help professionals understand an individual’s pathology and tailor services to meet their specific needs.

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