Exposure to Violence, Psychological Distress, and Gun Carrying Among Male Adolescents

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joan A. Reid, Ph.D., LMHC

Assistant Professor
Criminology Program DAV 266
University of South Florida St. Petersburg

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Firearm-associated homicide and suicide are leading causes of death among American youth (i.e., 10-24 years old), with disproportionately high rates observed among male youth of color. Notably, gun violence and psychological problems are often conflated in public discourse regarding gun violence and prevention. However, few studies have assessed the impact of exposure to violence, either as a witness or a victim, when exploring the association between gun-carrying behavior and psychological distress.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Addressing this gap in the literature, we found that male adolescents with higher levels of psychological distress were more likely to report carrying a gun across all waves of the longitudinal study.

However, the association between psychological distress and gun carrying diminished or disappeared when exposure to violence was also considered.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Gun-carrying prevention and intervention strategies should address the impact that witnessing and experiencing violence has on the psychological well-being of vulnerable youth.

For instance, assessment for trauma-related psychological distress should become the standard of care in emergency departments, where many vulnerable minority youths affected by trauma and violence seek treatment.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: In this study, we did not explore other factors that may influence gun carrying, such as gun accessibility, community influences, employment, or peer behavior. Such potentially influential factors should be explored in future research.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The study sample was limited to male adolescents with prior criminal offenses and is not representative of all adolescents. As a result, the generalizability of the findings is limited. However, this is precisely the group that is at greatest risk for future violence. Lastly, it is important to note that like other work in this area, these results provide no strong support for psychological symptoms alone as markers of increased risk for violence-related behaviors, like gun carrying.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Reid JA, Richards TN, Loughran TA, Mulvey EP. The Relationships Among Exposure to Violence, Psychological Distress, and Gun Carrying Among Male Adolescents Found Guilty of Serious Legal Offenses: A Longitudinal Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 31 January 2017] doi: 10.7326/M16-1648

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Last Updated on February 1, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD