Learning to gamble: early gambling experiences among young people in Denmark

Abstract

This article presents results from the first phase of a longitudinal qualitative study of gambling among young people in Denmark. The longitudinal study is designed to capture the trajectories of young gamblers and to explore how social and cultural factors and processes impact on young people's gambling careers.

The first stage of analysis places a special emphasis on young people's introduction to gambling and the social contexts of these early gambling experiences. Theoretically, this first study is guided by a symbolic interactionist approach. We conclude that early experiences with gambling are socially mediated and that significant social contexts such as the family and peer groups form important contexts of these early experiences. Our evidence suggest that becoming engaged in gambling is a social process involving a transfer of skills and knowledge in which novices learn how to play and to attribute specific meanings to gambling.

Overall, our findings indicate that young people start gambling not because of purely individual characteristics or deviant motivations but through social processes within significant social networks. Implications for prevention and further research are briefly discussed.

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