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The Social Construction of the Pathological Gambler's Identity and Its Relationship With Social Adaptation: Narratives From Members of Italian Gambling Anonymous and Gam-Anon Family Groups

Claudia Venuleo, Tiziana Marinaci


According to a socio-constructionist perspective, pathological gamblers’ “subjectivities” emerge out of social networks and networks of meaning-making in which scientists, politicians, health services, and common people take an active part. We are interested in showing how a legitimated view (socio-cultural model) of problem gambling as a disease affects the way in which the members of Gamblers Anonymous (GA) self-groups understand and present their identity and talk about their problem and the help they have received. The work is based on a qualitative analysis of 35 in-depth, semi-structured, open-ended interviews, 25 with gamblers who attend Italian GA self-help groups and 10 with gamblers’ relatives who attend Gam-Anon family groups. The main themes arising from the interviews show how a dominant view of problem gambling as a lifelong chronic illness opens the door to reconciliation with oneself and one’s relatives. This work provides insights into the close relationship between acculturation to a pathological identity, moral reconciliation, and “social belonging” that occurs through conforming to the GA group. 

Selon un point de vue socio-constructiviste, les «subjectivités» des joueurs pathologiques émergent des réseaux sociaux et des réseaux de création de sens dans lesquels les scientifiques, les politiciens, les services de santé et les personnes ordinaires participent activement. Nous sommes intéressés à montrer comment une vision légitimée (modèle socio-culturel) du jeu problématique en tant que maladie affecte la façon dont les membres des groupes autonomes de Gamblers Anonymes (GA) comprennent et présentent leur identité et parlent de leur problème et de l'aide qu’ils ont reçu. Le travail est basé sur une analyse qualitative de 35 entrevues approfondies, semi-structurées et ouvertes, 25 avec des joueurs qui fréquentent des groupes d'entraide italiens de GA et 10 avec des parents de joueurs qui fréquentent des groupes familiaux Gam-Anon. Les principaux thèmes découlant des entrevues montrent comment une vision dominante du jeu problématique en tant que maladie chronique tout au long de la vie ouvre la voie à la réconciliation avec soi-même et avec ses proches. Ce travail donne un aperçu de la relation étroite entre l'acculturation à une identité pathologique, une réconciliation morale et une «appartenance sociale» qui se produit en se conformant au groupe GA. 

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