Considering the socio-cultural terrain of hazardous behaviours: A Cross-Cultural Study on problem gambling among Maltese and Italian people


The literature on problem gambling (PG) has received little attention regarding the role of how people make sense of their social experiences and community settings. Based on a semiotic and cultural perspective, the present study used a cross-national approach to investigate whether there are significant differences in the socio-cultural dimensions characterizing problem gamblers in two different European countries, Italy and Malta. Perceived social support, cultural models and PG were assessed in a convenience sample of 134 subjects, balanced by gender, job status and educational status (Malta n=67; mean age 42.00±16.268; Italia n=67; mean age 43.37±14.446). Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was applied to test the relationships among variables; multi-group technique was used to test for any effects defined by the country variable. The findings show that the lower the perceived social support, the higher the likelihood of PG for both national groups. Maltese and Italian people exhibited differences vis-à-vis the cultural models working as risk factor for PG. In the case of Italy, a devaluation of the context of belonging, along with the feeling that one can rely on oneself, relates to PG. In the case of Malta, PG appears to be related to a trustful position toward the micro- and macro-social context. This study suggests that understanding why people engage in hazardous behaviours requires an in-depth consideration of the socio-cultural contexts and networks where people’s ways of evaluating their social experience develop. Implications for designing community PG prevention interventions are discussed.

Keywords: problem gambling, socio-cultural context, social support, cultural models, Italy, Malta


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