Item Specification in the Development of a Diagnostic Gambling Instrument: A Focus Group Approach

  • Renee M. Cunningham-Williams
  • Luis E. Zayas
  • Samantha J. Books
  • Linda B. Cottler


Pathological Gambling Disorder (PGD) is internationally prevalent and contributes to significant disruption and impairment in a gambler’s life. For accurate diagnosis and treatment planning, clinicians require standardized criteria as in commonly used DSM and ICD-10 taxonomies, which are conceptually clear, valid, and culturally appropriate. We aimed to describe clinical issues, other than DSM criteria, that may be potentially clinically meaningful to PGD assessment and treatment planning. Participants from St. Louis, Missouri, USA, who self-identified as problem or pathological gamblers or who had a friend or relative with a gambling problem, as well as clinicians with addictions and PGD diagnostic expertise, participated in one of ten focus groups as part of a larger psychometric study aimed at developing and refining a structured, diagnostic gambling assessment tool, the Gambling Assessment Module (GAM©). A content-driven immersion-crystallization qualitative approach yielded insight into gambling behaviors, terminology, and diagnostic issues. While complementary to existing diagnostic taxonomies, these findings provide additional item specification for in-depth clinical assessment.


Pathological gambling disorder Diagnostic instrument Focus groups 



This project was supported by grants to the first author from the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG #12) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (#K01 DA00430). An earlier draft of this paper fulfilled the partial requirements for a Washington University School of Medicine Master in Psychiatric Epidemiology (MPE) degree awarded to Samantha J. Books. The authors wish to acknowledge the invaluable facilitator training and/or feedback on the earlier version of this draft from Norma Ware, Ph.D. and MPE faculty members Wendy Reich, Ph.D. and Anne L. Glowinski, M.D. Administrative, technical, and/or consultation services were provided by the Center for Mental Health Services Research through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (#5P30 MH068579). This study would not have been possible without the contributions of all of the project staff members, clinicians, and research participants who provided invaluable data for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renee M. Cunningham-Williams
    • 1
  • Luis E. Zayas
    • 1
  • Samantha J. Books
    • 1
  • Linda B. Cottler
    • 2
  1. 1.Brown School of Social WorkWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.School of MedicineWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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