Partner influences on gambling: An exploratory study

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to explore in what ways, and with what degree of success, Ontario adults try to regulate their partner's gambling behaviour. Our specific objectives were: 1. To describe the extent and character of problem gambling in a non-random sample of Toronto residents; 2. To examine the extent and character of marital problems associated with this problem gambling; 3. To describe the degree of network embeddedness of these couples – the degree to which they occupy each other's worlds; 4. To find out how the gambling problem, the marital problem, and the network embeddedness affect readiness for treatment. In total, 90 adults from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were self-selected to take part in this study -- 59 who self-declared as having (or potentially having) a gambling problem and 31 who self declared as partners of people who have, or potentially have, a gambling problem. Of those 90 individuals, 10 couples agreed to take part in an extra couples part of the study. The sample was recruited with advertisements placed in newspapers, local educational gambling websites, and meeting places of Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon. We used a survey instrument (containing roughly 90 closed-ended questions) and an interview (containing roughly 30 open-ended questions). Couples willing to engage in the separate couples interview were asked an extra set of 20 open-ended questions. problem gambling has a dramatic effect on the financial, social, and psychological lives of the gamblers and their partners. The impacts of gambling include emotional costs to problem gamblers and partners, such as stress, worries, and guilt. Intimate relationships are systematically eroded by deception and loss of trust, increased conflict, and loss of time spent together. Parent-child relations are also hurt. Children in these families are often aware of problem gambling and its effects, and are often "caught in the middle" of their parents conflicts. As well, they are often personally affected due to a parent's gambling expenditures and time away from the family unit. Finally, there is the impact of problem gambling on the family's or couple's social circle, which becomes constrained and narrowed by the presence of a secret, stigmatized problem. The most important point is that none of us are individuals inventing our own lives. We do not create our problems alone, nor do we often solve them alone. The purpose of this study was to explore the intimate social milieus within which gamblers experience their problems. It is evident from this exploratory study that problem gamblers affect the lives of their loved ones, and to a limited degree, the reverse is also true.

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