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Gambling harm experienced by children of parents who gamble

Suomi, A., Lucas, N., Dowling, N., Delfabbro, P.

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
October 2022


Little research has addressed the specific impacts of parental gambling on children. This study seeks to better understand the harm experienced by children that can be attributed to their parents’ gambling.

Through surveys and interviews, adult respondents recollected their childhood experiences of parental gambling. The study investigated a number of areas, including determining the areas of child wellbeing that are affected by parental problem gambling, the extent to which parental gambling severity predicts the degree of gambling harm experienced by children, and the ways in which exposure to gambling harm in childhood relates to health and wellbeing outcomes later in life.


The study found parents and children identified different patterns and degrees of harm to children caused by parental gambling. Parents reported lower incidents of harm, and commonly focused on financial impacts. Children however reported higher incidents of harm, and mainly focused on the psychosocial impacts of parental problem gambling.

Other key findings include:

  • Adult children exposed to parental gambling reported more current mental health problems compared to participants who had not been exposed to parental gambling. These were related to specific types of harm as a result of parental problem gambling, particularly verbal and physical abuse, and child welfare calls.
  • Parental problem gambling severity was found to have a negative impact on predicting offspring problem gambling severity. The results suggest that being exposed to severe psychosocial consequences of parental gambling may act as a deterrent against problematic gambling behaviours in later life.

The study highlights the need for more consistency when assessing and treating children of gamblers, and the need for better service coordination, particularly among family welfare services.


Suomi, A., Lucas, N., Dowling, N., Delfabbro, P. 2022, Gambling harm experienced by children of parents who gamble, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.

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