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A Taxometric Analysis of Problem Gambling Data from a South African National Urban Sample

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Abstract

We investigate the question whether problem gambling (PG) in a recent South African sample, as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), is dimensional or categorical. We use two taxometric procedures, Mean Above Minus Below A Cut (MAMBAC) and Maxim Covariance (MAXCOV), to investigate the taxonic structure of PG as constructed by the PGSI. Data are from the 2010 South African National Urban Prevalence Study of Gambling Behavior. A representative sample of the urban adult population in South Africa (N = 3,000). Responses are to the 9 item PGSI. MAMBAC provided positive but modest evidence that PG as measured by the PGSI was taxonic. MAXCOV pointed more strongly to the same conclusion. These analyses also provide evidence that a PGSI cutoff score of 10 rather than the standard 8 may be called for. PG as constructed by the PGSI may best be thought of as categorical, but further studies with more theory based measurements are needed to determine whether this holds in a wider range of samples and for other screens. A higher cutoff score may be called for on the PGSI when it is used for research purposes to avoid false positives.

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Notes

  1. This rate of severe gambling problems in our population sample is higher than in studies in other countries. Prevalence of disorders related to self-control in general are thought to be abnormally high in South Africa by comparison with global prevalence estimates, most of which are derived from much wealthier countries with superior social support infrastructure. See Ellis et al. (2011) for an overview.

  2. Further details of the specification of the algorithm and the results obtained are available from the authors upon request.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank John Ruscio and an anonymous referee for very helpful comments. Any errors are our own.

Conflict of interest

Don Ross is formerly Director of Research, and Jacques Rousseau and Andrew Dellis are former paid consultants, for the National Responsible Gambling Programme, South Africa, which funded the collection of the data used in the reported study. This agency receives money derived from a levy on casinos. Neither the agency nor the industry have any influence on design or reporting of research, which is quality assured and governed by the policies of the University of Cape Town.

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Correspondence to Harold Kincaid.

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Kincaid, H., Daniels, R., Dellis, A. et al. A Taxometric Analysis of Problem Gambling Data from a South African National Urban Sample. J Gambl Stud 29, 377–392 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-012-9316-y

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