Firearm Involvement Among Parents and Their Adolescent Children: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of At-Risk Youth

Project: Research project

Project Details


Firearm violence is an urgent public health problem. Despite declines in homicide and other violent crime, firearms were involved in the crime-related deaths of more than 350,000 people in the United States in the past decade. Young urban racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. In the Northwestern Juvenile Project (NJP), our 16-year longitudinal study of juvenile offenders, we found that a large proportion owned a gun, perpetrated firearm violence, and/or were victims of firearm violence. Many juvenile offenders become parents when young; their children are at great risk for firearm involvement and victimization. Yet there are remarkably few data on how parents’ involvement with firearms—during their own adolescence and young adulthood—influences their children’s risk. We propose to leverage prospective data—already collected on our original participants—to conduct the first large-scale study of how high-risk parents’ current and past involvement with firearms (ownership, perpetration of violence, and victimization) influences that of their adolescent children. We will interview 900 participants: n=450 high-risk youth (children of adolescent offenders), ages 12 to 15 years, and their parents, n=450. We chose ages 12 to 15 years because it is a critical developmental period for the initiation of firearm involvement. We have 4 aims: (1) to examine patterns of firearm involvement in urban high-risk adolescents (children of juvenile offenders, G2); (2) to examine their parents’ (G1) involvement with firearms; (3) to examine how parents’ firearm involvement influences that of their children; and (4) to identify risk and protective factors that moderate and mediate the relationship between the parent and child’s involvement with firearms. The proposed prospective study has several key features: (1) the sample will include enough parents with a history of involvement with firearms (including victimization and perpetration) to examine its influence on their children; (2) the sample is predominantly socioeconomically disadvantaged African Americans and Hispanics, groups who face the most grievous consequences of firearm violence; (3) the design will allow us to examine multilevel data on risk and protective factors from individuals, families, peers, and communities; and (5) the study uses a mixed-methods approach to identify protective factors that could be used as targets for developing innovative preventive interventions. The investigation will provide data responding to: (1) the National Academy of Medicine’s priorities for research to reduce the threat of firearm-related violence; (2) Healthy People 2020’s objective to reduce firearm-related deaths or reduce weapon carrying by adolescents on school property; and (3) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s priority to identify and evaluate strategies to decrease inappropriate access to and use of weapons by minors, and to prevent lethal violence.
Effective start/end date9/1/188/31/23


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5R01HD093935-05)


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