Book Review of COPING WITH TEEN GAMBLING NEW YORK: THE ROSEN PUBLISHING GROUP, INC.
Along with what is certain to be part of a continuing wave of selfhelp and scholarly publications about America’s growing interest in gambling, Jane Haubrich-Casperson’s Coping with Teen Gambling is a timely and very readable contribution to the emerging concern about adolescent gambling. Pitched primarily to the teenage readership, although valuable for parents and educators as well, this work provides a thoughtful blend of personal accounts, clinical case samples and references to the empirical literature, all of which are sandwiched between the author’s opinions and antidotes as she pleads with our collective conscience to take notice of the “hidden disease” that is slowly encroaching on the innocence of America’s youth. The serious student of this field may be uncomfortable with Haubrich-Casperson’s occasional hyperbole and questionable generalizations of equivocal research findings, and the book’s layout could have been more accommodating to young readers, yet these problems are minor in contrast to this important effort concerning a relatively ignored issue in the adolescent health field. The introductory chapter grabs the reader’s attention by stating that gambling is the fastest growing addiction among youths, fueled by a complacent attitude in the home and schools that gambling is safer than drugs and other teenage ills. While it is difficult to document as much hard data about the negative consequences of teenage gambling compared to the dangers, for example, of adolescent drug abuse, Haubrich-Casperson is trying to place a wake-up call to adolescents. Even if the public health damage of youth gambling never reaches alarming heights, she is correct in noting that our country’s accelerating obsession with high stakes games may be undermining young people’s perceptions of the work ethic and weakening their priority towards education. Chapter 1 may be the book’s most captivating of all. As guest author, Doug Van Nispen paints a compulsive gambling picture with up-close and personal strokes. His account begins with innocent card games among his childhood friends, encouraged by one of the friend’s father who serves as the teacher. Later in early adulthood, Doug develops a preoccupation with alcohol and sports betting. Personal injuries and tragedies either feed his hunger for gambling or further aggravate an already desperate gambling situation. We learn of the paradox of an addict: The rationalization of one’s mounting loses and continued futile efforts to chase the loses despite what would be obvious signs of real trouble to any outsider, if allowed an inside view. Doug’s case is instructive because it represents what many gambling experts having been saying about the slippery nature of adolescent problem gambling. Doug does not show any hard signs of compulsive gambling during his teenage years; they surface in early adulthood. Yet the adolescent warning signs are unmistakable: excessive interest in social card games; indulgent tendencies (running and alcohol); fragile selfconfidence; and the mother’s struggle with alcoholism and her, perhaps, unwitting transference of the coping benefits of keeping secrets. He eventually rises above the dangers of gambling and gives hope that recovery is there for those who are ready. The second chapter covers a lot of ground, most of which points to the theme that we are indeed a gambling nation. Haubrich-Casperson essentially handicaps our country’s risk of losing control of the expansion of gambling. She surveys the benchmarks of our strong attraction to gambling, including how much Americans spend. She reminds us that illegal and undocumented wagering (e.g., sports betting) may represent even gaudier spending levels. The diagnostic criteria for compulsive gambling are then reviewed, although there is not enough discussion of how the criteria may be different for adolescents. Another major theme of this…
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