Genetic and environmental origins of gambling behaviors from ages 18 to 25: A longitudinal twin family study

Abstract

Gambling behaviors tend to increase in prevalence from late adolescence to young adulthood, and the underlying genetic and environmental influences during this period remain largely understudied. We examined the genetic and environmental influences on gambling behaviors contributing to stability and change from ages 18 to 25 in a longitudinal, behavioral genetic mixed-sex twin study design. Participants were enrolled in the Minnesota Twin Family Study. A range of gambling behaviors (maximum frequency, average frequency, money lost, and gambling problems) were assessed at ages 18 and 25. The results of our study support the following conclusions: (a) the genetic and environmental factors impacting a range of gambling behaviors are largely similar in men and women, (b) genetic factors increase in influence from 18 to 25 (21% at age 18 to 57% at age 25), (c) shared environmental factors are influential at age 18, but tend to decrease from ages 18 to 25 (55% at age 18 to 10% at age 25), and (d) nonshared environmental influences are similarly significant and are small to moderate in magnitude at both ages. The findings add to a small yet important research area regarding determinants of youth gambling behaviors and have the potential to inform prevention and intervention efforts.

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