Measuring Pathological Gambling4

As interest in pathological gambling increased during the 1990s, researchers have conducted an increasing number of epidemiological surveys and, to a lesser extent, clinical investigations. Accordingly, scientists developed several screening and diagnostic instruments for this research. The committee identified 25 different such assessment instruments that have been used to measure pathological and problem gambling (Shaffer et al., 1997). Of these, 12 were primarily used with adults and 3 were primarily used as adolescent measures. These instruments were used principally as screening tools. As part of the Survey of American Gambling Attitudes and Behavior commissioned by the U.S. Commission on a National Policy Toward Gambling, Kallick and her colleagues at the University of Michigan Survey Research Center developed the first instrument reported in the literature in 1975: the ISR (Institute for Social Research) Test (Kallick et al., 1979). Many of the recently developed tests are based on the DSM-III or subsequent DSM-based definitions to assess and measure pathological gambling.

Table 2-1 lists the primary gambling screening and diagnostic tools used in survey or clinical research cited in the literature. As indicated in the table, many of the measures have not been evaluated and the others have received minimal psychometric evaluation. The exception is the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), which has been widely used in numerous epidemiological studies (see Shaffer et al., 1997) and has been applied to samples derived from treatment, Gambler's Anonymous, help-line, and several general population settings (e.g., Lesieur and Blume, 1987; Stinchfield, 1998). The widespread use of the SOGS in population surveys did not occur without criticism. The concern is that the use of screening instruments that were developed principally for use in clinical settings requires caution in studies of the general population. In contrast to diagnostic interviews, the aim of screening tools is to identify the possible presence of the target


The committee acknowledges Rachel Volberg's written contribution pertaining to the history and development of diagnostic and screening instruments.

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