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Impulsive Tots at Risk for Gambling Problems Later: Study

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Preschoolers who are impulsive, restless, moody and inattentive are twice as likely as other kids to have a gambling problem in adulthood, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Missouri, Duke University and University College London said their findings are important considering "the ever-increasing number of [gambling] temptations our world presents," such as the constant ability to gamble on the Internet.

In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information on 1,037 children, aged 3 years, who participated in a New Zealand Health and Development study. After a 90-minute assessment, the children were grouped into one of five categories: under-controlled (those who were more negative, restless and had trouble controlling their emotions); inhibited; confident; reserved; or well-adjusted.

The researchers questioned 939 of the children about their gambling behavior when they reached 21 and 32 years of age. At 21 years old, 86 percent of the participants had gambled, and 13 percent of them could be considered problem or compulsive gamblers. By the age of 32, about 4 percent of the participants still had problems with gambling that interfered with their financial, personal life or career.

The study also revealed that men had gambling problems more often than women. Those with low childhood intelligence and socioeconomic status were also at greater risk for compulsive gambling. After taking these contributing factors into account, however, the study authors pointed out that impulsivity and inattentiveness as a preschooler was a significant predictor of compulsive gambling as an adult.

The study, released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of Psychological Science, is the first to establish a link between impulsivity in children and later compulsive gambling, noted psychologist Wendy Slutske of the University of Missouri and colleagues, in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science.

The study authors added that their findings may extend beyond gambling. Boosting children's self-confidence and teaching them about patience and self-control could increase the likelihood that they will be happy and enjoy financial and academic success, they suggested. "It fits into a larger story about how self-control in early childhood is related to important life outcomes in adulthood," Slutske concluded in the news release.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about gambling addiction.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, April 23, 2012

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