column eight of Table 3-9, estimates ranged from 11.3 to 27.7 percent, with a median of 20 percent. For pathological gamblers only, these studies presented past-year estimates ranging from 0.3 to 9.5 percent, with a median of 6.1 percent. Sixteen studies provided estimates of the proportion of lifetime adolescent pathological and problem gamblers. The range of estimates across these studies was from 7.7 to 34.9 percent, with a median of 15.5 percent. For pathological gamblers only, the estimates ranged from 1.2 percent to 11.2 percent, with a median of 5.0 percent. Acknowledging again the difficulty in interpreting these data, we observe that, in comparison to the proportions of adult pathological and problem gamblers presented earlier, by the prevailing operationalizations, the proportion of pathological gamblers among adolescents in the United States could be more than three times that of adults (5.0 versus 1.5 percent).

It is important to emphasize, however, that the proportions reported in the adolescent studies and those found in the adult studies using the prevailing measures and criteria are not always directly comparable. In particular, many of the studies of adolescents use adaptations of the pathological and problem gambling instruments especially tailored for adolescents. Moreover, even the same survey items may have different meaning for adolescents, for example, regarding debt incurred. These circumstances introduce the possibility that adolescent and adult scales measure different underlying constructs. In addition, there may be different thresholds for youthful and adult gambling problems—the same gambling behavior that might not be problematic for an adult could be considered excessive for an adolescent. In many studies, therefore, the criteria for classifying adolescents as pathological or problem gamblers are not the same as those used for adult samples. Thus, although studies of adolescents provide credible indications that the proportion of pathological and problem gamblers is higher among adolescents than among adults, the matter of how much higher depends on the definitions and interpretations applied to the respective groups.6


This problem of applying similar definitions to both adolescents and adults has been similarly raised in the substance abuse literature. For example, there are several lines of validity evidence for alcohol dependence criteria for adults, but the evidence is less defensible when applied to adolescent drinkers (Martin and Winters, in press).

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