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Annual Research Review: Youth firearm violence disparities in the United States and implications for prevention

NCJ Number
The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Volume: 62 Issue: 5 Dated: 2021 Pages: 563-579
J. H. Bottiani; et al
Date Published
17 pages

This study examined factors in the social ecology driving the relative extent of disparities in youth firearm violence in the United States and whether current firearm violence prevention approaches sufficiently address them.


Research has identified the United States (U.S.) as a global outlier in its firearm ownership rates, with a correspondingly higher risk of youth firearm violence compared to other countries. The relative extent of disparities in youth firearm violence within the U.S. has been less clear. Applying a health disparities framework, the current study synthesized epidemiological, sociological, and prevention science literatures, emphasizing structural inequalities in youth sociocultural positionality in life course developmental context. The study also highlighted findings from national injury data and other studies regarding the magnitude and impacts of youth firearm violence disparities. The study found that the burden of firearm violence varied markedly at intersections of gender, race, place, developmental stage, and homicidal or suicidal intent. Firearm homicide among Black boys and young men (ages 15-24) was at outlier levels - many times greater than the rates of any other demographic group, developmental stage, or violence intent, particularly in urban settings. Recent research has operationalized structural racism and implicated historically racialized spaces as a root cause of this disparity. In contrast, elevated firearm suicide rates were found among Native and White boys and young men in rural settings; firearm-related cultural attitudes and gender socialization were points of consideration to explain these disparities. This study highlights research-based youth firearm violence preventive interventions, and emphasizes gaps in efforts focused on structural and sociocultural factors. (publisher abstract modified)