Life skills, mathematical reasoning and critical thinking: Curriculum for the prevention of problem gambling


Numerous studies have found a high rate of problem gambling amongst youth. In addition, a large percentage of adult pathological gamblers began to gamble as youth. In a previous study (see Macdonald & Turner, 2000, 2001, 2002) the researchers developed and evaluated a pilot problem gambling prevention program which they administered in a school setting. In the evaluation of that study the researchers found significant improvement in the students' understanding of random chance, but were unable to find any evidence of improved coping skills. The current paper reports on a continuation of this previous work. After reviewing major etiological theories of problem gambling, in conjunction with literature on youth and problem gambling, the researchers set out to create a research-based prevention approach to problem gambling which focuses on the connection between coping skills, self-monitoring or meta-questioning skills and random events knowledge. In the first study, the researchers found significant results for the retention of the random events content of the curriculum. However, they failed to find a significant effect (retention) for the self-monitoring and coping styles content. The researchers encountered a number of difficulties related to the implementation of the curriculum in the schools, the format of the curriculum, and the outcome measures package. They refined both the evaluation measures and curriculum program based on the results of Study 1 and the feedback from the teachers, and then conducted a second study. In Study 2, the experimental group showed significant increases in measures of random events knowledge and coping knowledge relative to the control group. However, the results for self-monitoring knowledge failed to reach significance. For the Random Events Knowledge Test (REKT), the interaction accounted for 10.4% of the variance. For the coping content, interaction between trial and condition accounted for 5.6% of the variance. The results indicate that students can be effectively taught about the utility of coping skills and can also develop their understanding of random events and critical thinking skills. However, more work needs to be done in developing an effective intervention to teach students about self-monitoring and improve coping resources.

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