Firearm Violence

Growing Up with Guns Study

The Crimes against Children Research Center is currently conducting the Growing Up with Guns study in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago. This study examines the exposure of youth and young adults to firearm violence. It is the first nationally representative longitudinal survey for this population and content area and aims to address gaps the literature while helping to protect youth from gun violence.

Development of a Youth Firearm Risk and Safety Assessment Tool (Youth-FiRST)  

UNH investigators utilized a systematic, mixed-methods approach to develop and pilot a comprehensive youth firearm violence exposure instrument, the Youth Firearm Risk and Safety Tool (Youth-FiRST). The goal of the study was to provide comprehensive pilot data on the variety of ways children and adolescents are exposed to guns and gun violence in three communities: Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; and rural areas of Appalachia, TN. Participants were 630 children and youth, ages 2-17. Youth, ages 10-17, completed a self-report survey and caregivers of young children, ages 2-9, completed the survey as a proxy for that child. Participants were recruited through a variety of techniques, including through youth-serving agencies, housing authorities, festivals, pediatric clinics, word of mouth, and local email lists for classified advertisements. Participants completed an anonymous survey through a computer-assisted self-interview on a tablet or through an online link to a web-based survey.

Findings indicated that 42% percent of youth in this study had a gun in their home. Youth living in non-urban areas were more likely than those living in urban areas to have a gun in their home (72.9% vs. 14.5%). Fifty-five percent had gun violence exposure in their lifetime – 67.3% of urban youth and 41.7% of non-urban youth. This included direct gun violence (8.4%), seeing gun violence (26.2%), and hearing (but not seeing) a gun shot in a public place (49.2%). Moreover, 15.9% had a peer who carried a gun for purposes other than hunting or target shooting and 15.2% said a student had brought a gun to their school. Additionally, 11.7% of youth had seen a gun accidentally go off and 20.1% knew someone who has killed or tried to kill themselves with a gun. Significant differences were noted between urban and non-urban areas for each of these with the exception of direct gun violence exposure, which included being threatened with a gun. Witnessing gun violence and hearing gun shots were more common in urban areas whereas seeing a gun accidently go off and knowing someone who had killed or tried to kill themselves was more common in non-urban areas. Findings highlight the importance of community characteristics when planning gun violence prevention strategies as well as estimates of the types of firearm exposure experienced by youth.

These findings and the Youth-FiRST measure developed from this study helped to inform the national Growing up with Guns (GWG) study currently in the field (described above).

Publications from this study include:

Beseler, CL, Mitchell, KJ, Jones, LM, Turner, HA, Hamby, S, & Wade Jr, R (2020). The Youth Firearm Risk and Safety Tool (Youth-FiRST): Psychometrics and validation of a gun attitudes and violence exposure assessment tool. Violence and Victims, 35(5), 635-655.

Turner, HA, Mitchell KJ, Jones, LM, Beseler, CL, Hamby, S, & Wade Jr, R (2019). Gun violence exposure and trauma symptoms among children and youth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 32(6), 881-889.

Mitchell, KJ, Jones, LM, Turner, HA, Beseler, C, Hamby, S, & Wade Jr, R (2019). Understanding the impact of seeing gun violence and hearing gun shots in public places: Findings from the Youth Firearm Risk and Safety Study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-17. PMID:31179801.

For more information contact:
Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD
Research Professor of Psychology
Crimes against Children Research Center
(603) 862-4533