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Has the Genetic Contribution to the Propensity to Gamble Increased? Evidence From National Twin Studies Conducted in 1962 and 2002

  • Wendy S. Slutske (a1)

Social changes, such as the expansion of legal forms of gambling, can influence not only the prevalence of gambling, but can also shape the relative importance of genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences in the propensity to gamble. In the present study, I examined differences in the prevalence and in the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to gambling involvement in the United States in 1962 versus 2002. The data came from two sources: (1) a survey of 839 17-year-old same-sex twin pairs from the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test twin study, and (2) an interview of 477 18- to 26-year-old same-sex twin pairs from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Similar measures of gambling participation were included in the two studies. Evidence for a genotype-by-time interaction was evaluated by testing whether the contribution of genetic influences was greater in the more recently born cohort of twins. Despite the major changes in the gambling landscape over the intervening 40 years, there was no evidence for such an interaction. The contribution of genetic factors and environmental factors did not significantly differ and there was no evidence for genetic influences at either time point. Instead, the variation in the propensity to gamble was explained nearly equally by common and unique environmental factors. Explanations for this surprising finding are discussed.

Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Professor Wendy S. Slutske, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. E-mail:
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Twin Research and Human Genetics
  • ISSN: 1832-4274
  • EISSN: 1839-2628
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