Problem Gambling and Family Violence in Chinese Help-Seeking Clients: Prevalence, Impact and Coping

Mei Lo Elda Chan, Tan Lei Daniel Shek, Nicki Dowling


Despite substantial evidence that problem gambling is associated with a wide range of family difficulties, only limited effort has been devoted to studying family coping styles and impacts of problem gambling on families, including family violence. In particular, scientific studies on the above issues amongst Chinese communities are non-existent. The aims of this study were to a) determine the prevalence of family and couple violence among families who experience gambling problems; b) explore how family members cope with their family members’ gambling problems and c) examine the relationships between family coping styles and family impacts.

A total of 285 participants (182 gamblers and 103 family members) were recruited from Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Even Centre over a 12 month period. Information on demographic characteristics, gambling behaviour, alcohol and drugs use, gambling related family impacts and coping, family violence victimization and perpetration, and psychological symptoms was collected. Results showed that 11.6% (n=12) of family members reported having experiences of being a victim in family and couple violence, and 12.6% (n=13) of them reported being the perpetrator. Furthermore, 14.6% (n=15) reported being both the victim and perpetrator. For the gambler’s group, 24.2% (n=44) reported being victimized, 6.0% (n=11) reported being the perpetrators, and 4.9% (n=9) reported being both the victim and perpetrator. Significant differences on coping styles and family impacts between problem gamblers and family members of gamblers were found. Impacts on family had stronger correlations with withdrawal coping than tolerant-inactive and engaged coping.

As the current service provision is fragmented with little attention paid to family impacts and coping, the findings of this research will be useful for the development of an appropriate intervention and treatment model including family coping skill training programs and the inclusion of family and couple therapy in treatment programs.

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