The personality of pathological gamblers: A meta-analysis


This review summarizes studies of pathological gambling and personality. Meta-analyses were conducted on 44 studies that reported personality traits of pathological gamblers (N = 2134) and nonpathological gambling control groups (N = 5321). Effect size estimates were calculated for 128 comparisons and organized according to the factors associated with two integrative accounts of personality. Four of the meta-analyses examined traits that have previously been found to load on the Urgency, Premeditation, Perseverance, and Sensation Seeking aspects of impulsivity (Whiteside & Lynam 2001). Substantial effects were found for traits associated with Negative Urgency (Cohen's d =.99) and Low Premeditation (d =.84), but not for Low Perseverance or Sensation Seeking. A second set of meta-analyses examined broad domains of personality that have previously been found to load on Negative Affect, Positive Affect, Disagreeable Disinhibition, and Unconscientious Disinhibition (Markon, Krueger, & Watson, 2005). Substantial effects were found for Unconscientious Disinhibition (d =.79), Negative Affect (d =.50), and Disagreeable Disinhibition (d =.50), but not Positive Affect. It was concluded that these individual personality characteristics may be important in the etiology of pathological gambling. The personality profile implicated in the etiology of pathological gambling is similar to that found in a recent meta-analysis of substance use disorders (Kotov, Gamez, Schmidt, & Watson, 2010). These results suggest that pathological gambling may be part of a broad cluster of externalizing psychopathology, and also call into question the current classification of pathological gambling as an Impulse Control Disorder in the DSM-IV.

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