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Cambodian Refugees and Gambling Disorders

The Cambodian refugees that have settled in the United States may suffer high rates of trauma (Marshall, Schell, Elliott, Berthold & Chun, 2005). In order to treat this trauma, it is also important to understand how the trauma manifests itself in behaviors, such as substance abuse, employment dysfunction or gambling disorders.

Recent research examined the correlation between socio-demographic variables and trauma with disordered gambling. The study was conducted by Marshall, Elliott and Schell in 2009.

The researchers studied a group of 127 Cambodian refugees living in Long Beach California. A three-stage procedure was used to choose the participants. Screening, eligibility and random recruitment were all used to establish the sample group.

The study employed a face-to-face interview. The interviewers asked questions about socio-demographic variables, such as age, gender, marital status, English proficiency, and household income. They also assessed pre-immigration trauma exposure using the 17-item Cambodia Harvard Trauma Questionnaire.

The participants were also asked about their gambling behaviors, using the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS; Lesieur & Blume, 1987). A score of 3 or more was established as a disordered gambler.

The study used logistic regression analyses to examine the association between socio-demographic measures and trauma variables and disordered gambling.

The results of the study showed that 18 of the 127 participants met the criteria for disordered gambling. This equates to 13.9 percent of the sample. Three variables were associated significantly with disordered gambling: being male, being married or cohabitating, and being exposed to high levels of trauma.

There were limitations to the findings of the study. The rate of disordered gambling had large confidence intervals (between 4 percent and 24 percent). Also, because of the sample being pulled from one area in California, the results may not generalize to other populations, including even other groups of Cambodian refugees.

The association found between trauma and disordered gambling reflects similar results to previous research (Kausch, Rugle & Rowland, 2006). One aspect of the study discussed here, however, showed different results than in other studies. Previous research (Petry et al., 2003) has shown marriage to be a deterrent from disordered gambling rather than an association with it.

This study shows that Cambodian refugees suffering from trauma may be at an increased risk for disordered gambling. Further research is needed to establish whether these results transfer to general populations of Cambodian refugees who have suffered trauma.

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