Associations between gambling, substance misuse and recidivism among Canadian offenders: A multifaceted exploration of poor impulse control traits and behaviours


Moderate correlations among gambling, substance use and crime suggest these three behaviours may each be indicators of a single underlying problem trait, such as poor impulse control. We tested whether self-reported traits prospectively predicted future criminal recidivism, when accounting for incarcerated adult offenders' past criminal behaviour, substance use and gambling behaviour. We took a multi-construct approach to measuring components of impulse control, utilizing three questionnaires that assess sensation seeking, poor premeditation, and reward sensitivity. Male participants incarcerated in two federal institutions were invited to complete self-report booklets; participation was self-selected and fully voluntary. Results indicated moderate correlations between measures of trait impulse control, self-reported drug use, and official criminal history (N = 140). Gambling problems prospectively predicted post-release criminal recidivism (n = 83), even when accounting for past criminal behaviour, impulse control traits and substance misuse. Although they represent a small percentage of this sample, results suggest offenders with high gambling problems represent a particularly at-risk group for future crime, who were more than four times likely to reoffend compared to offenders without problem gambling. These results suggest there may be mutual impact of problem behaviours on life outcomes above the contribution of poor impulse control.

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