Behavior Genetics

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 347–355 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Gambling and Substance Use in Early Adolescence

  • Frank VitaroEmail author
  • Amy C. Hartl
  • Mara Brendgen
  • Brett Laursen
  • Ginette Dionne
  • Michel Boivin
Original Research


This study examined the genetic and environmental architecture of early gambling involvement and substance use to determine whether genetic or environmental factors that contribute to substance use also put young adolescents at risk for early involvement in gambling. Self-reports of substance use and gambling involvement were collected at age 13 years from 279 Monozygotic and Dizygotic twin pairs. Univariate ACE modeling revealed that genetic and nonshared environmental factors almost equally accounted for gambling involvement, with no contribution from shared environmental factors. In contrast, both shared and nonshared environmental factors played important roles in substance use; the contribution of genetic factors was also substantial. Bivariate analyses identified a significant, albeit modest, overlap between the genetic influence on gambling involvement and the genetic influence on substance use. The results shed light on the etiology of early gambling involvement and substance use, suggesting that preventive interventions targeting common risk factors may also need to be complemented by modules that are specific to each behavior.


ACE modeling Gambling Substance use Early adolescence 



This research was made possible by grants from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec (Société et Culture), the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD068421) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (0909733)

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Vitaro
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Amy C. Hartl
    • 2
  • Mara Brendgen
    • 3
  • Brett Laursen
    • 2
  • Ginette Dionne
    • 4
  • Michel Boivin
    • 4
  1. 1.University of MontrealMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  3. 3.University of Quebec at MontrealMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Laval UniversityQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial MaladjustmentMontrealCanada

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