Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 225–238 | Cite as

Is Executive Cognitive Function Associated with Youth Gambling?

  • Laura M. Betancourt
  • Nancy L. Brodsky
  • Caitlin A. Brown
  • Kathleen A. McKenna
  • Joan M. Giannetta
  • Wei Yang
  • Daniel Romer
  • Hallam Hurt
Original Paper


Our objectives for this report were to identify trajectories of youth gambling behavior, and to examine their relation to executive cognitive function (ECF) and associated problem behaviors. Philadelphia school children, enrolled at ages 10–12 years (n = 387; 49% male), completed three annual assessments of risk behaviors, ECF, impulsivity, problem behaviors and demographics. Across ages 10–15 years, using methods from Nagin et al., two groups were identified: Early Gamblers (n = 111) initiated early and continued in later assessments, and Later Gamblers (n = 276) initiated at later ages and gambled less. Betting money on cards and sports were the most frequently reported gambling behaviors. Using gambling group as outcome, final backward selection logistic regression model showed Early Gamblers are more likely male (P = 0.001), report more active coping (P = 0.042), impulsive behaviors (P ≤ 0.008), and have friends who gamble (P = 0.001). Groups were similar in ECF, parental monitoring, marital status, SES, and race. Early Gamblers had higher incidence of problem behaviors and drug use (all P ≤ 0.006). Two gambling groups were identified in early adolescence with Early Gamblers showing higher levels of impulsivity and comorbid problems but similar levels of ECF compared to Late Gamblers. As more gambling groups are identified through later adolescence, ECF may emerge as a relevant precursor of problem gambling at this later time.


Youth gambling Trajectories Executive cognitive function Impulsivity Adolescence 



The project described was supported by Grant Numbers R01DA018913 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and UL1-RR-024134 from the National Center for Research Resources. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura M. Betancourt
    • 1
  • Nancy L. Brodsky
    • 1
  • Caitlin A. Brown
    • 1
  • Kathleen A. McKenna
    • 1
  • Joan M. Giannetta
    • 1
  • Wei Yang
    • 2
  • Daniel Romer
    • 3
  • Hallam Hurt
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of NeonatologyThe Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biostatistics and EpidemiologyThe University of Pennsylvania School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Adolescent Risk/Annenberg Public Policy CenterThe University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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