Problem gambling and family violence: Prevalence and patterns in treatment-seekers

Abstract

The primary aim of this study was to explore the prevalence and patterns of family violence in treatment-seeking problem gamblers. Secondary aims were to identify the prevalence of problem gambling in a family violence victimisation treatment sample and to explore the relationship between problem gambling and family violence in other treatment-seeking samples. Clients from 15 Australian treatment services were systematically screened for problem gambling using the Brief Bio-Social Gambling Screen and for family violence using single victimisation and perpetration items adapted from the Hurt-Insulted-Threatened-Screamed (HITS): gambling services (n = 463), family violence services (n = 95), alcohol and drug services (n = 47), mental health services (n = 51), and financial counselling services (n = 48). The prevalence of family violence in the gambling sample was 33.9% (11.0% victimisation only, 6.9% perpetration only, and 16.0% both victimisation and perpetration). Female gamblers were significantly more likely to report victimisation only (16.5% cf. 7.8%) and both victimisation and perpetration (21.2% cf. 13.0%) than male gamblers. There were no other demographic differences in family violence prevalence estimates. Gamblers most commonly endorsed their parents as both the perpetrators and victims of family violence, followed by current and former partners. The prevalence of problem gambling in the family violence sample was 2.2%. The alcohol and drug (84.0%) and mental health (61.6%) samples reported significantly higher rates of any family violence than the gambling sample, while the financial counselling sample (10.6%) reported significantly higher rates of problem gambling than the family violence sample. The findings of this study support substantial comorbidity between problem gambling and family violence, although this may be accounted for by a high comorbidity with alcohol and drug use problems and other psychiatric disorders. They highlight the need for routine screening, assessment and management of problem gambling and family violence in a range of services.

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