Since no prior longitudinal studies have examined a comprehensive set of explanatory risk factors for gun carrying together in within-individual change models or examined whether the predictors of gun carrying changes across adolescence and early young adulthood, the current study fills these gaps by examining the predictive utility of several risk factors for gun carrying, and by examining whether any of the associations vary by age.
The sample included 1,216 young men who were first arrested during adolescence (approximately 15 years old) and interviewed regularly for 5 years (until approximately 20 years old) after the first arrest. The outcome was youth-self-reported gun carrying and the risk factors included several variables consistent with various explanations for gun carrying (psychosocial maturity deficits; antisocial behavioral style; socialization; victimization). Research questions were addressed with fixed effects dynamic panel models (within-individual change models). Results showed that the most robust predictors of gun carrying were increased exposure to guns and gun-related violence and increased engagement in other antisocial and illegal behavior. The results emphasize the specific etiology of gun carrying and the potential social contagion effect of gun-related events. Overall, the study points to the need for prevention and intervention programs to specifically target the reduction of the real and perceived prevalence of gun-related events in young men’s lives. (publisher abstract modified)