Background. The purpose of this study was to estimate the extent of and to identify predictors of preadolescent gun use in a well child cohort with matched parent and child data.
Methods. We analyzed self-report questionnaires from children and their parents using conditional logistic regression models. Questionnaires were given to 3,145 ten- to twelve-year-old children and 3,145 parents enrolled by their pediatricians in a prevention cohort study.
Results. Thirty-two percent of the children lived in households with guns. Children and parents generally agreed about the presence of guns in their homes; 17% had access to unlocked guns in their homes; 22% had fired guns. In this preadolescent cohort, firing guns was associated with being male, having guns in the home, having friends who use guns, and initiation of alcohol use.
Conclusions. In this well child cohort, significant numbers of preadolescent, healthy boys in white, middle-class U.S. homes have access to guns, are using guns, and have friends who use guns. These children are also early alcohol adopters. Safety interventions with parents of preadolescents about the risks for accidental injury, death, and suicide due to child gun use may prove beneficial.