According to a new study, kids who are branded impulsive by their kindergarten teachers are more likely to develop gambling behaviors by the sixth grade.
Researchers behind the study have said that while there's an increase in adults and teens indulging in gambling, there's an equivalent risk of health among these youngsters.
"Problematic gambling in adults is associated with substance use, depression and suicide, psychopathology, poor general health and a multitude of family, legal and criminal problems," wrote the authors.
They added: "Most disconcerting is that young people seem more vulnerable than adults to gambling-related morbidity [illness] and suicidality. Data suggest that in most cases, youthful recreational gambling predates pathological gambling in adulthood."
Researchers led by Linda S. Pagani, Ph.D., of Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the Universite de Montreal, Canada, studied 163 children who were in kindergarten in 1999 (average age 5.5).
At the beginning of the school year, teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire rating their students' inattentiveness, distractibility and hyperactivity on a scale from one to nine (with higher values indicating a higher degree of impulsiveness).
After six years, when the children were an average of 11.5 years old, they were interviewed by phone and asked whether and how often they played cards or bingo, bought lottery tickets, played video games or video poker for money or placed bets at sports venues or with friends.
The researchers took into account other behaviors that may be associated with youth gambling, including parental gambling.
But still, it was found that a one-unit increase on the kindergarten impulsivity scale was linked to a 25-percent increase in a child's involvement in gambling in sixth grade.
Our results suggest that behavioral features such as inattentiveness, distractibility and hyperactivity at school entry represent a vulnerability factor for precocious risk-oriented behavior like gambling in sixth grade," wrote the authors.
The study has been published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.