Examining potential school contextual influences on gambling among high school youth

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Background and Objectives:Gambling is an increasing concern among adolescence, yet there has been limited investigation into school-level factors that may increase the risk for gambling. The current study examined the relationship between substance use and gambling, and explored the influence of school context on adolescent gambling.Methods:Data come from 25,456 students in 58 high schools participating in the Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative. Youth-reports of socio-demographics, lifetime gambling, and past-month substance use (ie, alcohol, cigarette, marijuana, non-medical prescription drug) were collected. School-level characteristics were student suspension rate, student mobility, percentage of students receiving free/reduce-priced meals, percentage of African American students, urbanicity, gambling prevalence, gambling problem prevalence, and substance use prevalence. Weighted multilevel analyses were conducted.Results:One-third (n = 8,318) reported lifetime gambling, and 10% (n = 2,580) of the full sample, or 31% of the gamblers, experienced gambling problems. Being male and alcohol, marijuana, and non-medical prescription drug use were associated with twice the odds of gambling. Among gamblers, being male, African American, and cigarette, marijuana, and non-medical prescription drug use were associated with higher odds of gambling problems. The school-level factors of suspension rate and percentage of African American had minimal, inverse associations with gambling; however, none were related to gambling problems.Conclusions:Multilevel results indicated that adolescents that are male and use substances are more likely to gamble and have gambling problems.Scientific Significance:The findings indicate a need for prevention programs targeting risky behaviors to also target gambling as such behaviors often co-occur among adolescents. (Am J Addict 2014;23:510–517)

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