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Centre for Children and Young People

Locating the child within gambling research

Locating the Child Within Gambling Research project description (pdf)

The aim of this project is to identify a program of collaborative research between Scholars within the fields of gambling and Childhood Studies. Through a systematic review of existing literature pertaining to the impact of gambling on children and young people, this study will identify gaps within the literature and develop a program of collaborative research and funding options.

Youth gambling has become a substantive stream of the gambling research field. Whilst gambling is generally illegal for those under the age of 16, 18 or 21years (depending on the jurisdiction or gambling activity), evidence indicates it is a popular activity amongst adolescent youth (Abdi, Ruiter, & Adal, 2015; Forrest & McHale, 2012; Gupta & Derevensky, 1998; Rossen, Bulter, & Denny, 2011). Further, with the advent of new consumer platforms for gambling, such as on-line apps and non-financial gambling-like games on social media, there has been growing concern that gambling is easier for young people to access, is becoming increasingly socially embedded, and moving at a pace that is difficult to regulate (Calado, Alexandre, & Griffiths, 2014; Derevensky & Gainsbury, 2015; Griffiths, 2015; King & Delfabbro, 2016).

This concern is also increasingly extending to younger children, with research showing that by the age of two children are regularly using an electronic tablet or laptop to watch entertainment and more than one in three children under the age of five years old are regularly interacting with online games and playing apps on electronic tablets (Sefton-Green, Marsh, Erstad, & Flewitt, 2016). Regularly featured on many gaming apps are in-app online gambling advertisements (King & Delfabbro, 2016). Therefore, as Calado et al. (2014, p. 733) have warned, 'many children and adolescents are now growing up being exposed to various types of gambling in a completely different way compared to previous generations.' This fast pace of change and the increasingly embedded nature of gambling style activities within digital, child and youth culture begs research that seeks to understand the socialisation processes at work and that can help to inform helpful and relevant policy and regulation. At present though, it is unclear whether the gambling research field is able and prepared to respond effectively. The field has been described as a 'mess…unimaginative, conceptually bereft and theoretically vacuous' (Young & Markham, 2015). It has been criticised for being repetitive and too 'safe' with a pervasive, over-emphasis on 'problem' gamblers (Cassidy, 2014), at the expense of exploring, and perhaps challenging, the more nuanced way gambling is becoming embedded within contemporary culture (Collins, 2006; Van der Linden, 2015; Young, 2013).

Having said that, recent evidence is becoming apparent of an increasingly nuanced sociocultural turn within the discipline, (Gordon, Gurrieri, & Chapman, 2015; Karekallas, Raento, & Renkonen, 2014; Matilainen & Raento, 2014), suggesting that gambling research is embarking upon a conceptual 'shake-up' and is poised for conceptual and methodological expansion. Given this notion of a 'conceptual journey,' and the impetus presented by contemporary gambling and digital culture, this paper seeks to contribute by critically exploring the concept of childhood in the context of gambling. Central to this, is a targeted, systematic review of all youth gambling articles published within gambling specific journals over the past 25 years. If gambling research is to seriously herald calls for conceptual expansion, particularly in the area of youth gambling, it is vital to examine how the child has been conceptualised in gambling research to date, with the aim of charting where the field might be on its conceptual journey and the tensions and pitfalls that might lie ahead.