Gambling among young adults occurs at a higher rate than in the general population and is associated with a host of negative consequences. Self-determination theory (SDT) posits that individuals develop general motivational orientations which predict a range of behavioral outcomes. An autonomy orientation portrays a choiceful perspective facilitating personal growth, whereas a controlled orientation represents a chronic proclivity toward external pressures and a general lack of choice. Further, an impersonal orientation is characterized by alack of intention and feeling despondent and ineffective. Controlled orientation has previously been associated with more frequent and problematic gambling. This research was designed to examine gambling motives as mediators of associations between motivational orientations and gambling behaviors. Undergraduates (N = 252) who met 2+ criteria on the South Oaks Gambling Screen participated in a laboratory survey assessing their motivational orientations, gambling motives, and gambling behavior (quantity, frequency, and problems). Mediation analyses suggested that autonomy was negatively associated with gambling problems through lower levels of chasing and escape motives. Further, controlled orientation was associated with more problems through higher levels of chasing and interest motives. Finally, impersonal orientation was negatively associated with amount won through escape motives. Overall, results support exploring gambling behavior and motives using a SDT framework.
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