Identifying At-Risk Profiles and Protective Factors for Problem Gambling: A Longitudinal Study Across Adolescence and Early Adulthood

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Abstract

Past studies have identified various risk and protective factors for problem gambling (PG). However, no study has examined the interplay between these factors using a combination of person-centered and variable-centered approaches embedded within a longitudinal design. The present study aimed to (a) identify distinct profiles in early adolescence based on a set of risk factors commonly associated with PG (impulsivity, depression, anxiety, drug−alcohol use, aggressiveness, and antisociality), (b) explore the difference in reported gambling problems between these profiles during midadolescence and early adulthood, and (c) identify family- and peer-related variables that could operate as protective or compensatory factors in this context. Two samples were used: (a) a population sample (N = 1,033) living in low socioeconomic-status neighborhoods and (b) a population sample (N = 3,017) representative of students attending Quebec schools. Latent profile analyses were conducted to identify at-risk profiles based on individual risk factors measured at age 12 years. Negative binomial regression models were estimated to compare profiles in terms of their reported gambling problems at ages 16 and 23. Finally, family- and peer-related variables measured at age 14 were included to test their protective or compensatory role with respect to the link between at-risk profiles and gambling problems. Four profiles were identified: well-adjusted, internalizing, externalizing, and comorbid. Compared to the well-adjusted profile, the externalizing and comorbid profiles reported more gambling problems at ages 16 and 23, but the internalizing profile did not differ significantly. Various protective and compensatory factors emerged for each profile at both time points.

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