NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Women and Gambling: Does Gender Make a Difference?

While conventional wisdom often implies that gender does make a difference when it comes to gambling behavior, Debi LaPlante, Ph.D., an instructor of psychology in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, reminded participants in today’s opening session that it’s important to examine what we think we know to be true to ensure it actually is.

With that tenet in mind, LaPlante and her colleagues from the Division on Addictions sought to explore gender’s role in gambling addiction with their research of individuals participating in the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program. The research team chose to focus specifically on gender’s role in the progression of a gambling disorders and choice of games.

In the case of disorder progression, LaPlante and her colleagues discovered that gender is an important predictor of disorder progression in treatment-seekers, but that the effect of gender on gambling problem trajectory is only a small part of the whole picture. In fact, their findings suggest that other psychosocial characteristics contribute as much or more than gender in the progression of the disorder within individuals. LaPlante emphasized that these other factors deserve at least as much weight as gender in prevention and treatment efforts.

With regard to game choice, the researchers found that gender doesn’t hold as much unique discriminatory power for distinguishing gambling preferences as many have thought. LaPlante pointed out that the factors providing essential distinguishing information for gamblers who prefer specific games were personal demographic, economic and health-related profiles.

LaPlante, and her fellow panelist, seminal women and alcohol researcher Dr. Sharon Wilsnack, maintained that there are definitely differences between men and women when it comes to gambling disorders and alcohol abuse. However, LaPlante emphasized that it’s imperative for treatment providers and others to avoid the tendency to over-generalize the importance of any one specific demographic characteristic, such as gender. Over-generalization, LaPlante said, values simplicity at the cost of precision in the identification of individual preferences, risk factors and tendencies related to gambling.


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