Externalizing (e.g. conduct problems and antisocial behaviors) and internalizing (e.g. depression and anxiety) problems have been associated with gambling-related harms. However, there is a paucity of longitudinal research investigating how these problems and their patterns of change over time (i.e. trajectories) predict gambling engagement among youth. This study aimed to examine the trajectories of externalizing and internalizing problems and their predictive values for later gambling. Data came from a cohort of 744 children (53.2% male, Mage 8.3 years at baseline) from Québec, Canada, with 58.3% reporting significant externalizing behaviors at baseline. Participants were followed for 7 years. Externalizing and internalizing problems were measured annually, and past year gambling was assessed at the final measurement. Mean trajectories of externalizing and internalizing problems were identified through parallel process growth modeling, and logistic regression was utilized to examine whether these trajectories were predictive of gambling engagement. Thirty-one of the 659 participants remaining at the final measurement reported participation in gambling. Greater baseline externalizing problems, lower baseline internalizing problems, and a less significant decrease in externalizing problems over time predicted gambling engagement. These results provide evidence of the externalizing pathway toward youth gambling and the importance of early intervention involving youth and other relevant stakeholders.

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