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Contemporary issues and future directions for research into pathological gambling

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The recent healthy increase in research into all aspects of gambling is noted. The dominant theme accounting for most of this research is the mental disorder model of pathological gambling and measures that have been derived from this conceptualization. It is suggested that an alternative approach focusing on the construct of choice or subjective control over gambling may be a research direction that will ensure that progress is maintained. In this paper a context for the discussion is provided by first identifying briefly fundamental conceptual and methodological issues associated with the mental disorder model. In particular it is argued that the heterogeneity of the diagnosis of pathological gambling makes the research task of assessing truly independent variables extremely difficult. Subsequently an illustrative schema is presented that demonstrates both the potential advantages and some of the complexities associated with the dependent variable of self-control over gambling behaviour. The main advantages are argued to be (a) the focus of research is narrowed to one potential cause of harmful impacts rather than the great diversity of impacts themselves, (b) prospective studies of regular gamblers in real gambling venues may be a key source of insight into the development of pathological gambling and (c) it promotes the development of theoretical links with the mainstream of the discipline of psychology. Despite the conceptual difficulties that may be associated with the variable of self-control, it is suggested that these may be overcome because contemporary research into the addictive behaviours has demonstrated considerable success in the definition and measurement of control and related themes such as craving, restraint and temptation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-08-01

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