The Personality Context of Adolescent Gambling: Better Explained by the Big Five or Sensation-Seeking?

  • Kathleen W. ReardonEmail author
  • Meggie Wang
  • Clayton Neighbors
  • Jennifer L. Tackett


Adolescent gambling is a serious and increasingly common problem. Studies in adults have found several within- and between-person associations between personality and gambling. We aim to extend these findings to a sample of adolescents selected for gambling behavior. Participants consisted of a racially diverse sample of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 (n = 227). We collected self-reported information on normal-range personality traits, sensation-seeking, and gambling frequency, severity, and motives in an online survey. Normal-range personality traits were not correlated with gambling, but trait sensation-seeking was positively correlated with gambling. Latent class analyses showed that classes of adolescent gamblers may be differentiated based on personality trait patterns, although these classes were not differentiated on gambling severity or frequency. Finally, in hierarchical analyses, six homogenous components representing the five normal-range personality traits and sensation-seeking accounted for maximum variance in gambling outcomes. In this model, components representing sensation-seeking and conscientiousness were the only significant unique predictors of gambling-related outcomes. Our findings suggest that subgroups of adolescent gamblers may be distinguished based on personality trait patterns before the emergence of problematic gambling. In other words, personality differences may reflect an early predisposition to divergent pathways to adolescent gambling. Our findings concur with previous work and underscore the importance of sensation-seeking as a particularly important risk factor of initiation and escalation of adolescent gambling.


Gambling Adolescents Personality Sensation-seeking Gambling motives Gambling severity 


Author’s Contribution

KR participated in study design and coordination, data collection, data analyses and interpretation, and drafting the manuscript. MW participated in data analyses and interpretation and drafting the manuscript. JT conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and provided substantive feedback and edits on the drafted manuscript. CN participated in study design and provided substantive feedback and edits on the drafted manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

Kathleen W Reardon, Meggie Wang, Clayton Neighbors and Jennifer L. Tackett certify that they have no known conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, regarding the information contained within this publication. This work was supported by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) [Early Stage Investigator Grant, 2012–2014].

Human Participants and/or Animals

This research involved Human Participants. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.”

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10862_2018_9690_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (65 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 65 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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