Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Associations Between Self-Reported Reasons for Abstinence, Durations of Abstinence, and Continued Abstinence from Gambling Over a 6-Month Period

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Joshua B. Grubbs (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Andrea E. Cripps (Other)

Third Advisor

Harold Rosenberg (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael J. Zickar (Committee Member)


In numerous countries, a large majority of the population gambles each year. Understanding the reasons that motivate individuals to abstain from gambling can help inform researchers’ conceptualization of this relatively uncommon decision. I designed this investigation to assess and compare the importance of 13 reasons for abstaining from gambling reported by individuals who were abstinent from gambling for at least 6-months and to identify those motivations associated with continued abstinence during a 6-month follow-up period. To meet these objectives, I conducted two studies. First, I recruited a sample of n=509 adults via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) who had abstained for at least six months and examined the cross-sectional associations between the importance of reasons for abstinence reported by participants and their durations of abstinence. I also conducted an exploratory factor analysis, which revealed that importance rankings for 9 of the 13 reasons loaded onto subscales of reasons. The survey results indicated that financial concerns and knowledge that the odds are against them were the most commonly reported reasons for abstention. In addition, lifelong abstainers tended to rank reasons reflecting sociocultural values as more important than did non-lifelong abstainers. Next, I conducted a second study in which I analyzed importance rankings of the same 13 reasons that had been previously collected as part of an ongoing longitudinal survey. I also collected 6-month follow-up data from those participants. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the importance rankings from Study 2 demonstrated good fit with the subscales from Study 1, Robust CFI = 0.990, Robust RMSEA = 0.053, 95% CI for RMSEA = 0.047 to 0.059, SRMR = 0.042. Similar to Study 1, participants in Study 2 ranked fear of losing money and knowledge that the odds are against them as the most important reasons for abstaining. In addition, lifelong abstainers in Study 2 also ranked reasons reflecting sociocultural values as more important than did non-lifelong abstainers. Longitudinal findings demonstrated variability between Time 1 and Time 2 in both the importance rankings and durations of abstinence reported by participants. Nevertheless, participants who ranked sociocultural values as a more important at baseline were more likely to remain abstinent during the six-month follow-up period. This association became non-significant when baseline duration of abstinence was included as an independent variable, and that may have resulted from collinearity between rankings of this subscale and lengths of abstinence at baseline. The results of these two studies suggest that financial concerns and knowledge that the odds are against them are the two most important factors motivating non-gamblers to abstain. However, these reasons do not appear to predict continued abstinence over time, whereas reasons reflecting sociocultural values appear to be longitudinally associated with future abstinence. These findings have implications for both the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. Family-based prevention programs for gambling may help children to avoid gambling in the future by creating sociocultural motivations for abstinence. In addition, linking abstinence-based goals to clients’ religious beliefs, moral values, and the family environments in which they were raised may help clients in recovery from gambling disorder to achieve and maintain abstinence.