The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intention of winning a prize. This can include a game of chance, such as the roll of a dice, spin of a roulette wheel or outcome of a horse race. It can also include playing card games, like poker or blackjack, with friends in a social setting. It is important to note that not all forms of gambling are the same and some can have a greater impact on people than others. Some people may not be able to control their urges to gamble and this can lead to problems. Problem gambling can have a psychological, personal, social or financial impact. It can even lead to legal issues and bankruptcy. A person who has a problem with gambling should seek professional help.

While there is a wealth of gambling research focused on individual behaviour and addiction, there is only a small amount of work considering how the wider socio-cultural, regulatory and commercial environment shapes gambling practice and its consequences. A social practice theory approach offers a potential new avenue for understanding these phenomena. This approach emphasises that human activity is enacted and performed in specific contexts, utilising different materials, knowledge, languages and discourses, and incorporating a range of norms and technologies. This is particularly relevant in the case of gambling, which is a complex, embedded and rapidly changing activity.

It is therefore important to consider the way that a person engages in gambling practice, how it changes over time and how these trajectories are influenced by the wider social environment. For example, it is argued that young people’s participation in gambling may be shaped by the interaction of genetic risk, demographic factors, family gambling habits and behavioural traits such as impulsivity. To investigate these interactions, a longitudinal study with detailed demographic and environmental information on participants is needed.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is a unique cohort study that meets these criteria. This allows us to examine the determinants of young people’s gambling at age 17 years, 20 years and 24 years using a range of detailed variables.

Moreover, the Avon Study includes data on young people’s involvement in a variety of activities, including social media activity, which can be used to understand how adolescents are exposed to gambling marketing. This information can be used to develop an evidence base that can inform harm reduction strategies that take into account how the whole gambling environment is marketed and consumed.

It is also important to remember that gambling is heavily marketed, especially through online and mobile channels. It is marketed in ways that appeal to socio-cultural constructs such as mateship and togetherness, hedonism and thrill and adventure, and social status. This is facilitated by the way in which gambling products and practices are designed, branded and marketed to appeal to these constructs. It is also important to consider the way in which advertising and promotional material is presented, with the use of visuals, colours and messages that appeal to these constructs.