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The Biopsychosocial Approach to Gambling: Contextual Factors in Research and Clinical Interventions

Mark Griffiths, Paul Delfabbro



This paper argues that adherence to a single, specialised theory of gambling is largely untenable. It highlights limitations of existing theories of gambling at three increasingly specific levels of analysis; namely, the social, psychological and biological.


An overview of each level of analysis (social, psychological and biological) is provided by critically evaluating the contemporary literature on gambling. This is followed by discussions of the limitations and interdependence of each theoretical approach and the implications for research and clinical interventions.


While several recent critiques of gambling research have provided considerable insight into the methodological limitations of many gambling studies, another problem is seldom acknowledged - the inadequacy and insular nature of many research paradigms. It is argued that gambling is a multifaceted behaviour, strongly influenced by contextual factors that cannot be encompassed by any single theoretical perspective. Such contextual factors include variations in gambling involvement and motivation across different demographic groups, the structural characteristics of activities and the developmental or temporal nature of gambling behaviour.


This paper suggests that research and clinical interventions are best served by a biopsychosocial approach that incorporates the best strands of contemporary psychology, biology and sociology.

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