Journal article

Problem gambling and family violence: family member reports of prevalence, family impacts and family coping

Victims of family violence Family violence Problem gambling Hong Kong Australia New Zealand


There exists only a small number of empirical studies investigating the patterns of family violence in problem gambling populations, although some evidence exists that intimate partner violence and child abuse are among the most severe interpersonal correlates of problem gambling. The current article reports on the Australian arm of a large-scale study of the patterns and prevalence of co-occurrence of family violence and problem gambling in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. The current study screened 120 help-seeking family members of problem gamblers in a range of clinical services for both family violence and problem gambling. The main results showed that 52.5% reported some form of family violence in the past 12 months: 20.0% reported only victimisation, 10.8% reported only perpetration and 21.6% reported both victimisation and perpetration of family violence. Parents, current and ex-partners were most likely to be both perpetrators and victims of family violence. There were no gender differences in reciprocal violence but females were more likely to be only victims and less likely to report no violence in comparison to males. Most of the 32 participants interviewed in depth, reported that gambling generally preceded family violence. The findings suggest that perpetration of family violence was more likely to occur as a reaction to deeply-rooted and accumulated anger and mistrust whereas victimisation was an outcome of gambler’s anger brought on by immediate gambling losses and frustration. While multiple and intertwined negative family impacts were likely to occur in the presence of family violence, gambling-related coping strategies were not associated with the presence or absence of family violence. The implications of the findings for service providers are discussed.

Authored by Aino Suomi, Alun C Jackson, Nicki A Dowling, Tiffany Lavis, Janet Patford, Shane A Thomas, Peter Harvey, Max Abbott, Maria E Bellringer, Jane Koziol-McLain and Sue Cockman.

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