Disordered gambling in young adults is hypothesized as being related to mistaken gambling-related cognitions. Few studies have examined the temporal order of this relationship using longitudinal data. The purpose of this study is to understand the directionality of the relationship between gambling cognitions and gambling severity in a longitudinal sample of young adults.
Young adults (N = 578), initially aged 18–21 years, completed the Manitoba Longitudinal Survey of Young Adults at two time points approximately 2–3 years apart. Measures of beliefs about randomness related to gambling and gambling severity, as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index, were utilized. A cross-sectional relationship between gambling severity and gambling-related cognitions was observed with greater gambling severity being associated with increased endorsement of mistaken cognitions. Evidence for a bidirectional longitudinal relationship was observed with faulty gambling cognitions leading to later problematic gambling behaviors and vice versa when examining a total beliefs scale. When examining specific beliefs about randomness, initial gambling group membership predicted later endorsement of certain beliefs about randomness while initial belief ratings did not impact later gambling group membership.
The results of this study suggest a bidirectional relationship between gambling severity and erroneous gambling-related cognitions. However, when examining specific beliefs about randomness, evidence was found for problem gambling behaviors leading to erroneous gambling beliefs. These findings suggest that prevention efforts targeting cognitions may not be as effective in impacting those not yet demonstrating disordered gambling behaviors.