Gambling and Attachment: The Mediating Role of Alexithymia in Adolescents and Young Adults

J Gambl Stud. 2021 Jun;37(2):497-514. doi: 10.1007/s10899-020-09965-y.


Attachment and alexithymia play a central role in the appearance and persistence of pathological gambling and related comorbid addictive behaviours among adolescents and young adults. The aim of the present study was to explore the differences between problem gamblers and non-problem gamblers in gambling severity, spending, video gaming, alcohol and drugs use, attachment, and alexithymia, as well as the interaction among these variables. The study sample included 560 participants non-problem gamblers (mean age = 15.49 years) and 54 problem gamblers (mean age = 16.43 years). Gambling disorder (SOGS-RA), drugs, alcohol, video games and spending (MULTICAGE CAD-4), attachment (IPPA), and alexithymia (TAS-20) were measured. Student's t, Pearson's r, and multiple mediation analyses were conducted. Problem gamblers scored significantly higher in all substance and non-substance addictive behaviours and alexithymia; as well as significantly lower scores in mother and father attachment scales. Moreover, gambling was negatively associated to father and mother attachment, and positively associated to alexithymia. Finally, alexithymia was found to mediate between parental attachment and gambling, spending, videogame, drug and alcohol abuse, especially in the case of mother attachment. This study demonstrated that adolescent and young adult problem gamblers show higher comorbid addictions than non-problem gamblers, in the same way as higher levels of alexithymia and poorer father attachment. Given that higher comorbidity in early ages is associated with worse prognosis and higher psychopathology in adult life, early detection and treatment purposes becomes essential.

Keywords: Adolescents; Alexithymia; Attachment; Behavioural addictions; Gambling; Gambling disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Video Games / psychology