To identify risk and protective factors for weapon involvement among African American, Latino, and white adolescents.
The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health is a nationally representative survey of 7th-12th grade students. Predictors at wave 1 and outcome at wave 2 were analyzed. Data were collected in the mid-1990s, when rates of violent crime had been declining. The outcome was a dichotomous measure of weapon-involvement in the past year, created using 3 items (weapon-carrying, pulled gun/knife, shot/stabbed someone). Bivariate and multilevel logistic regression analyses examined associations of individual, peer, family, and community characteristics with weapon involvement; stratified analyses were conducted with African American, Latino, and white subsamples.
Emotional distress and substance use were risk factors for all groups. Violence exposure and peer delinquency were risk factors for whites and African Americans. Gun availability in the home was associated with weapon involvement for African Americans only. High educational aspirations were protective for African Americans and Latinos, but higher family connectedness was protective for Latinos only.
Interventions to prevent weapon-related behaviors among African American, Latino, and white adolescents may benefit from addressing emotional distress and substance use. Risk and protective factors vary by race/ethnicity after adjusting for individual, peer, family, and community characteristics. Addressing violence exposure, minimizing the influence of delinquent peers, promoting educational aspirations, and enhancing family connectedness could guide tailoring of violence prevention interventions.