A Longitudinal Investigation of the Problem Gambling Pathways Model with an Undergraduate Student Population


StudentDamien Dowd, University of Manitoba
Research PriorityExplore what risk and protective factors (individual, social, environmental) influence the movement back and forth between no risk and problem gambling risk levels.
FundingPh.D. Studentship ($60,000)
Project StatusCompleted


Project Summary

Problem gambling has been defined as gambling behaviour that has a negative impact on the gambler, others in his or her social network, or the community (Ferris & Wynne, 2001). In a recent study, approximately 2.0% of the Canadian population experienced gambling problems in a 12-month period (Afifi et al, 2010). However, this number may be even higher among university students, who appear to be more vulnerable to gambling problems than the general public. 

Research examining a Pathways Model of pathological and problem gambling proposed by Blaszczynski and Nower indicates that there may be several subtypes of problem gamblers that differ by various factors (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002). According to this model there are three subtypes of problem gamblers that follow distinct pathways in developing gambling problems: behaviourally conditioned problem gamblers develop gambling problems due to a mixture of environmental factors (e.g., increased access to gambling opportunities) and learning history; emotionally vulnerable problem gamblers gamble to reduce preexisting emotional problems such as anxiety and depression; and antisocial impulsivist problem gamblers are more impulsive, are more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, and attention deficit. 

Research investigating how gambling problems progress over time, according to this model, is lacking (Milosevic & Ledgerwood, 2010). For instance, the pathways model predicts that both behaviourally conditioned problem gamblers and emotionally vulnerable problem gamblers may exhibit depression and anxiety. However, behaviourally conditioned problem gamblers are thought to develop their symptoms in response to their gambling problems, whereas emotionally vulnerable problem gamblers develop gambling problems in an attempt to deal with their symptoms of depression and anxiety. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether symptoms of depression or anxiety emerge prior to or after the development of problem gambling in order to further test the strength of the pathways model. 

Through tracking the behavior of Manitoba university student gamblers over time the proposed research is designed to: 1) determine if undergraduate problem gamblers in Manitoba can be subtyped according to the Pathways Model and 2) investigate how gambling problems progress over time in this population. This research will also examine if there is movement of gamblers between no risk and problem gambling risk levels and will provide insight into the roots and progression of disordered gambling.

Knowledge gained from this research could help to create better ways to diagnose and assess gambling pathologies based on how they co-exist with other psychiatric disorders that contribute to the development and maintenance of problem gambling. In addition, through better understanding how problem gambling develops over time, this research will also help to establish more effective prevention strategies that take time-based issues into consideration.

Afifi, T.O., Cox, B.J., Martens, P.J., Sareen, J., & Enns, M.W. (2010). Demographic
        and social variables associated with problem gambling among men and
        women in Canada
. Psychiatry Research, 178, 395-400.
Blaszczynski, A. & Nower, L. (2002). A pathways model of problem and
        pathological gambling
. Addiction, 97, 487-499.
Ferris, J. & Wynne, H. (2001). The Canadian Problem Gambling Index: Final
        report Submitted for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Milosevic, A. & Ledgerwood, D.M. (2010). The subtyping of pathological gambling:
        A comprehensive review
. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 988-998.
Dowd, D., Keough, M., Jakobson, L., Bolton, J. & Edgerton, J. (2018). A latent class
          analysis of young adult gamblers from the Manitoba Longitudinal Survey of
          Young Adults. International Gambling Studies.