The impact of gambling problems on families

AGRC Discussion Paper No. 1 – November 2014

Summary

Gambling problems can have a significant impact on families. Although most of the available research involves intimate partners, other family members such as children, parents, grandparents and siblings are also affected. Common family impacts include financial hardship, impaired family relationships, diminished emotional and physical health, family conflict, mistrust, family neglect, communication breakdown and confusion about family roles and responsibilities. There is also consistent evidence that gambling problems are associated with family violence and that they are transmitted from one generation to the next.

The lay coping strategies employed by family members - which most often involve trying to stop the problem gambling - are rarely successful, and fail to mitigate the development of associated emotional, physical and behavioural problems. Although family members often approach gambling counselling services, there are few assessment tools and therapy approaches specifically designed for them. There is a clear need for further research that explores impacts on family members and to identify effective coping strategies to manage a gambling problem in the family. There is also a need to develop and evaluate new therapy approaches that can be administered across self-help, face-to-face, telephone and online modalities.