Child maltreatment and problem gambling: A systematic review

Abstract

This study systematically reviews research on child maltreatment and risk of gambling problems in adulthood. It also reviews adult problem gamblers’ risk of abusing or neglecting their own children. Multiple database searches were conducted using pre-defined search terms related to gambling and child abuse and neglect. We identified 601 unique references and excluded studies if they did not report original research, or did not specifically measure child maltreatment or gambling. Twelve studies that included multivariable analysis of childhood maltreatment exposure and problem gambling were identified. Six of seven studies examining childhood sexual abuse and four of five examining physical abuse showed a significant positive association between abuse and later gambling problems (odds ratios for sexual abuse 2.01–3.65; physical abuse 2.3–2.8). Both studies examining psychological maltreatment and two of three examining neglect identified positive associations with problem gambling. In most studies, risks were reduced or eliminated when controlling for other mental health disorders. The three studies measuring risk of child abuse and neglect among current problem gamblers suggest an increased risk for child physical abuse and medical conditions indicative of neglect although there is a considerable amount of variation among studies. Child abuse is associated with increased risk of gambling problems – gambling treatment providers should ask about maltreatment history as part of their clinical assessment. Problem gamblers may be more likely to physically abuse or neglect their children, but data here are more limited. Child welfare professionals should consider asking questions about parental gambling when assessing family risk.

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