A sociological examination of juvenile fruit machine gambling in a seaside town
This thesis has two main aims. The first is to develop a standard measure of addiction to gambling in children which could be used to estimate the extent of dependency among children aged 11 to 16 years. The second focusses upon patterns of usage and seeks to understand the various meanings which children attach to fruit machine gambling in an arcade. The first aim has been achieved by adapting a measure used to diagnose addiction to gambling in adults for use with children. The resulting DSM-IV-J criteria were tested using a questionnaire survey on a sample of 467 schoolchildren aged between 11 and 16 years. Those children who were defined as "probable pathological" gamblers by the DSM-IV-J index were significantly more likely to be involved in behaviours hitherto associated with dependency, than were the control group. DSMIV- J appears to be a major advance in the discrimination of pathological gambling in children. This study disaffirms the popular, generic image of the typical young fruit machine "addict" as being a lone, adolescent male. "Probable pathological" gamblers were equally male or female, spread across the age range of eleven to sixteen years, and came from a range of social class and religious backgrounds. However, "probable pathological" gamblers were more likely than "social" gamblers to have started playing fruit machines when they were very young (at the age of eight years or younger) and to have parents who gambled. The second aim has been investigated by ethnographic fieldwork and is presented in the form of a typology. Arcade Kings and their Apprentices, Machine Beaters, Escape Artists, Action Seekers and Renta- Spacers comprise a classification which includes "addicts" as well as "social gamblers". The typology reveals the multi-dimensional nature of fruit machine gambling as a leisure pursuit. It thus provides a theoretical contribution to the sociology of gambling as well as an "ethnographic road map" for researchers and counsellors in the field.