African-American teens gambling and sex

A major study of almost 500 African-American teens showed a correlation between sexual behaviors and gambling (Image: advertisementjournal.com)

Sigmund Freud thought gambling was a form of, ahem, self-gratification, if you get our drift, which is perhaps why he was barred from some of the more respectable casinos of Vienna. His theory, apparently, had something to do with the idea of impulse and guilt, common to compulsive gamblers, at least. But – like many of Freud’s early theories – this can now be consigned to the trash can of psychoanalysis, following a study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York which concludes that – far from verging on the onanistic – gambling is actually all about real sex.

Well, sort of.

The study – in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University and published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors – sought to determine whether adolescent sexual behavior that resulted in unintended consequences such as pregnancy or STDs is associated with gambling; and it concluded that, yes, it is.

Finding that many African-American teens have a higher rate of problem gambling than their Caucasian counterparts, the study sought to find any correlations between that reality and other at-risk behaviors.

Teenage Habits Coalesce, Study Finds

Of the 427 African-American youth studied in Baltimore, 49 percent had gambled at least once before the age of 18, and more gamblers than non-gamblers had initiated sexual intercourse by 18 as well. Crucially, the study found that more gamblers than non-gamblers had become pregnant or had impregnated someone. Nine percent of the sexually active youth reported contracting an STD.

“Our findings are complementary to earlier studies that showed an association between gambling with an earlier age of onset of sexual activities, however, participants in these samples were predominantly white,” said Mailman School associate professor of Epidemiology Silvia Martins.

“Despite evidence that problem gambling is more prevalent among African-American adolescents and adults, few adolescent studies included a large subgroup of African-Americans in their samples. This study also goes above and beyond prior research as it shows that gambling youth are not only at risk of gambling problems, which are associated with numerous adverse interpersonal, financial, criminal, and psychiatric consequences, but also at risk for sex-related behaviors such as adolescent pregnancy/impregnation.”

Methods to Combat Suggested

Martins advocates the introduction of programs to focus on improving the decision-making skills of adolescents, while educating them about the consequences of gambling and risky sexual behaviour, as well as negotiating safer sex with potential partners.

Of course, it’s not the first time that gambling has been linked with sex. Back in 1920, German sociologist, philosopher, and critic Georg Simmel reckoned he had it all figured out when he equated a bet with foreplay and winning with a state of orgasm, although we think he was making a slightly different point than Martins. He also argued that gambling was “a behavioral manifestation of one’s desire for self-insemination”.

Freud isn’t looking so bad now, is he?

Addictive Behaviors is an international peer-reviewed journal, and focuses on addictive behaviors and disorders. The publication’s scope encompasses behavioral and psychosocial research, as well as articles on topics including psychology, sociology, psychiatry, epidemiology, social policy, medicine, pharmacology and neuroscience. Founded in 1922, the Mailman School of Public Health focuses on public health research and education, and the school’s studies range from chronic disease to HIV/AIDS to  major public healthcare issues.