Understanding Weapon Carrying Behaviors of Youth in Florida Schools Using Structural Equation Modeling

Yingwei Yang*, Abraham Salinas-Miranda, Martha Coulter, Karen D. Liller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The purpose of the study was to determine the complex interplay between community, family, and individual factors associated with weapon carrying behaviors at school among youth in Florida through structural equation modeling (SEM). This study utilized an existing dataset, the 2015 Youth Outreach Survey, which was collected from youth (n=26,515) in public middle and high schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. SEM with robust maximum likelihood estimation was used to test a conceptual model of weapon carrying behaviors at school, consisting of two community factors (neighborhood problems and social cohesion), a family factor (adult caring relationships at home), and an individual factor (substance use). Approximately 3.9% of youth reported bringing a gun on school property, 5.1% brought knives, and 6.4% indicated that they have attended school with other weapons. In the SEM model, the strongest direct association with weapon carrying was substance use (β=0.41), followed by neighborhood problems (β=0.18). For indirect effects, neighborhood problems were positively associated with substance use (β=0.15) and inversely related to social cohesion (β=-0.29). Social cohesion had a strong positive association with adult caring relationships (β=0.41), while adult caring relationships were negatively associated with substance use (β=-0.24). This study shows social cohesion is a protective factor of weapon carrying behaviors among youth by moderating neighborhood problems and substance use. Substance use is a strong risk factor for youth that can reinforce the association between neighborhood problems and weapon carrying. Future research should assess more direct and indirect factors associated with weapon carrying behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-77
Number of pages8
JournalViolence and Gender
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • gun violence
  • structural equation modeling
  • weapon carrying
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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