The Unintended Normalization of Gambling: Family Identity Influences on the Adoption of Harmful Consumption Practices

By Westberg, K., Beverland, M. B., & Thomas, S. L. 

Although gambling has been legitimized as a form of leisure, this consumption activity can have individual and social costs. Policy approaches often focus on problem gambling as a discrete activity undertaken by an individual. Drawing on social practice theory and family identity research, we take an alternative approach, identifying how exposure to gambling can occur in emergent ways that can have an unintended but lasting effect. Based on 40 depth interviews, we identify how the pursuit of four family identity goals (membership and bonding, coming-of-age, emotional sustenance, and communing) plays a role in the normalization of gambling in childhood. We then explore how these goals and family gambling practices may contribute to gambling behaviour longer term. Finally, we examine the interplay between family identity goals at the meso-level, and wider macro-level socio-cultural institutions. Policy and social marketing initiatives that acknowledge the influence of identity-related gambling behaviour are recommended.