Adolescents who have a gambling problem tend to have friends who have the same problem and therefore lose ties to prosocial peer circles.
As with many other examples of high-risk and potentially damaging behavior, certain social influences can play a rather large part in taking up such behavior patterns, especially person’s closest social circles. In the context of gambling, there are many international studies that show a strong connection between adolescent/youth gambling and certain family variables.
The influence of parents and other family members on the intensity and severity of gambling activity that adolescents and young adults convey can be indirect and direct. The indirect influence refers mainly on the stress within the family unit and other circumstances that contribute to the vulnerability of adolescents and youth which in fact makes them more susceptible to develop a gambling problem. Some of the examples include: fragmented family units, frequent stressful family situations, death of a parent or parent figure, severe illness or disability of a family member, infidelity of one of the parents, putting a strong emphasis and value on money in a person’s life, presence of psychological, physical or sexual abuse within the family unit, the feeling of being rejected, negligence, etc. Researchers also confirmed the importance of a traumatic experience which is often a trigger that marks the beginning of gambling related problems.
“…86% of those children who gamble regularly have gambled in the company of their parents.”
The direct influence implies to two different social processes. One represents the introduction to gambling within the family unit (such as explaining and showing a child how to play a certain game), while the other represents the process of normalizing gambling activity, presenting it as a harmless family activity or a suitable way to spend your free time. Canadian study conducted on a sample of 477 children ages from 9 to 14 shows that 86% of those children who gamble regularly have gambled in the company of their parents. 75% even said they did so in their own family home. Further studies even show that it’s the parents who expose their children to their first gambling experience by buying them their first lottery tickets or scratch cards.
The transition from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood is marked by the fading of parental influence and the intensification of peer influence. In this development stage peers have all sorts of influences on their members, one of which is called peer pressure which sees the imposition of group values and behaviors on the individual. Adolescents who qualify as problematic gamblers tend to have friends who have the same problem and are less likely to spend time with peers who don’t approve of gambling. This often leads to loosing ties with your prosocial non-gambling friends and strengthening the ties with social circles where gambling vices are welcomed and consumed.