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Fabiansson (2010, p. 102) defines gambling as betting of money or any other material item that has value in an event whose outcome is unpredictable with the main objective of getting extra money and or other material items. In most cases, gambling usually turns out to be addictive despite the fact that people initially perceive it as a social activity. In the United States alone, the National Research Council reports that the problems associated with gambling have far-reaching impacts that extend beyond the gamblers themselves to include employers, workmates, the taxpayers and social friends (National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 1999, p. 36).
The family turns out to be the most affected by the direct impacts of compulsive gambling. Some of the fundamental effects associated with gambling on the family members include material deprivations, increasing cases of domestic violence, potential divorce, family separations and increasing cases of child abuse and neglect. It is arguably evident that gambling poses a significant threat to the family unit and cohesion. This paper discusses the potential impacts that gambling imposes on the family.
The first notable effect of gambling on families is that it results in material deprivations, which pose significant constraints towards the provision of basic needs for the family. Gambling usually turns out to be more than just a game, and people who are more consumed in gambling usually find it hard to control the urge of gambling (National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 1999, p. 35).
The basic implication of this observation is that addicted gamblers can bet virtually anything at their disposal to satisfy the urge associated with gambling. Sustained gambling habits imply that such an individual is likely to bet all the financial savings, material assets such as houses, cars and any other property, which are supposed to provide basic needs for the family (Fabiansson, 2010, p. 104). The situation is worsened by the fact that gambling is usually hard to realize until the time when an individual has nothing to bet. In such cases, it is usually too late to salvage what has already been lost during gambling. Material deprivation is also imposed because people who gamble cannot engage in productive work, which significantly affects their earnings in cases of constant losses (Makarchuk & Hodgins, 2002, p. 126).
This usually has an effect on the provision of basic needs for the family. People who are addicted to gambling perceive it as a solution to their problem. As a result, they are likely to bet even important assets hoping that they will recover their losses. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reports that families having gamblers are at a high financial risk, usually associated with large amounts of credit card debts, illegal loans, multiple mortgages, misappropriated loan and mortgage funds. This is likely to result in cases of eviction and even misappropriation of family savings. Craft-Rosenberg & Pehler (2011, p. 125) assert that a combination of the effects associated with deprivation of the basic needs at the family level has the potential of imposing negative consequences on the family unit and cohesion.
The second notable effect of gambling on families is that it results in the increased cases of domestic violence. According to the studies conducted by the National Research Council, 25-50 percent of spouses of gamblers have been subjected to physical abuse. In addition, studies conducted by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported that the establishment of casinos in communities resulted in an increase in the prevalence of domestic violence. For instance, the establishment of casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast increased the needs for assistance relating to domestic violence shelters by about 100-300 % (Orford, 2011, p. 45).
Compulsive gambling is considered as a high risk factor for domestic violence in the same manner as alcohol abuse. The increase in domestic violence due to a gambling behavior in the family can be significantly attributed towards lack of the ability by the gambler to control his/her impulse, poor tolerances to frustrations and increased aggressiveness (Aykac, 2008). Other potential causes of domestic violence and physical abuse associated with gambling can be attributed to the antisocial behavior of the gamblers, cases of mood disorders. Makarchuk and Hodgins (2002, p. 130) assert that a combination of dysfunctional personality characteristics, mental disorders, addictive traits and the complicated financial and social issues found in families having gamblers play an integral role in accelerating violence and physical abuse.
Gambling problems such as losing and lack of material items to bet are usually redirected to the family (Orford, 2011 p. 47). Anxiety and depression are core characteristics of people who gamble implying that they cannot effectively meet the demands imposed by their family members. Because of this, most gamblers resort to domestic violence. Denial of gambling also plays an integral role in increasing domestic violence because impulsive gamblers are quick to deny their addiction and are hostile towards any interventions that may be deployed by the family to assist such a person out of the gambling problem (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2011). The inference that can be made from this observation is that gambling threatens the family unit and cohesion since it is a high risk factor for domestic violence (National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 1999, p. 40).
The third notable effect of gambling on the family is that it increases child abuse and disregard. Studies conducted by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission outlined that children in families that have compulsive gamblers are susceptible to physical abuse and neglect; this is primarily due to parental problems imposed by pathological gambling (Darbyshire & Oster, 2001, p. 185). A review of the records by the state of Indiana Gaming Commission reported that about 72 children were left in the casino buildings within duration of 14 months. Deaths of children have been documented primarily due to gambling problems (Makarchuk & Hodgins, 2002, p. 130).
Gambling has the potential of increasing cases associated with child abandonment. A survey conducted by Makarchuk & Hodgins (2002, p. 129) reported that approximately 2.5 million children in the United States are affected directly by the gambling behavior of their guardians. Notable effects of gambling in include emotional, physical abuse and imposing significant impacts on their respective educational lives. In addition, children who come from family units that have pathological gamblers constantly witness role conflicts and find themselves in family tensions (Grant & Potenza, 2011, p. 126). Studies conducted to evaluate the impacts of gambling behavior on children have also reported that such children are at risk of developing individual behaviors that are health-threatening, extreme psychological problems, emotional disorders and difficulties with the law and education.
In addition, the children are at risk of adopting gambling behavior, which is due to the positive correlation that exists between parental gambling and adolescent gambling. Such family conditions usually have an effect on the psychological, physical, mental and emotional well-beings of children in families that have parental gambling, which in turn imposes significant threats in maintaining the family unit and cohesion (Grant & Potenza, 2011, p. 127).
The fourth effect associated with gambling on the family is that it tends to increase the divorce rates. A survey conducted by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission on 400 gamblers reported that 28 percent of them were either divorced or separated, which was mainly associated directly with the gambling problems (Davis, 2010, p. 47). The report also concluded that compulsive gambling tends to increase the levels of stress and tension within the family set up and between the married couples, which ultimately results to divorce and increasing evidence of family disharmony. For instance, the establishment of casinos in Mississippi has tripled the rates of divorce in Harrison Country.
Gambling behavior usually imposes psychological effects on the spouse of a habitual gambler, which mainly imposes significant effects on the sense of trust and the marital harmony. In addition, spouses of compulsive gamblers are susceptible to emotional distress and health problems due to the underlying problems caused by the gambling attitude of their respective spouses (Craft-Rosenberg & Pehler, 2011, p. 130). A notable characteristic of gambling behavior is that its results into isolations and diverse emotional problems. The situation is worsened by the fact that people who are consumed by gambling rarely accept it as a problem, making it difficult for the spouse to adopt any helpful interventions that may be fruitful in eliminating the gambling behavior. Coping with gambling behavior is usually difficult, and most people burn out early enough and resort to divorce and family break ups.
Physical abuse and domestic violence associated with gambling can also compel spouses to consider divorce instead of coping with gambling problems that are less likely to be stopped early enough (Grant & Potenza, 2011, p.128). The effects of divorce usually extend to affect the lives of the children regarding their educational, psychological and emotional well-being. In addition, divorce implies that the children will lack the parental support, which will in turn affect their well-being during adulthood. Compulsive parental gambling implies that spouses consumed in gambling forget their family commitments to engage in gambling, this threatens the family unit and cohesion that ultimately results in increasing cases of divorce and family separation (National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 1999, p. 45).
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It is arguably evident that gambling imposes significant effects on the family that are bound to threaten the family unit and cohesion. The paper has highlighted the notable impacts of gambling on the family including material deprivations, which poses significant constraints towards the provision of basic needs for the families, increased cases of domestic violence, child abuse and disregard and increasing rates of divorce. All these effects affect the family unit or cohesion in one way or another. In the light of this, it can be concluded that habitual gambling is a significant threat towards the existence of the family and cohesion. Interventions should be adopted early enough to curb problems associated with gambling.
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