Journal of Community Health

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 947–955 | Cite as

Violent Behaviors, Weapon Carrying, and Firearm Homicide Trends in African American Adolescents, 2001–2015

  • Jagdish Khubchandani
  • James H. Price
Original Paper


African American youths have the highest risk for firearm and other weapon related homicides. This study utilized the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 2001 to 2015 to assess trends in violence related behaviors and weapon carrying of African American adolescents. Our analyses found statistically significant reductions in physical fighting and weapon carrying among African American male adolescents from 2007 to 2015. Planning suicide increased in both male and female African American adolescents since 2007. In addition, the number of firearm homicides increased in African American males. African American females and males had groups of items highly predictive of weapon carrying behaviors: alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use and violent risk behaviors. Both female and male students who made mostly A’s or B’s in school were significantly less likely to carry weapons in and out of school. Our findings indicate that firearm homicides have increased in African American adolescents, but weapon carrying in school going adolescents has significantly declined. School engagement and satisfactory school performance seems to have a significant protective effect on firearm homicides and violent behavior risks in African American adolescents.


Homicide Firearm Violence Injury Adolescents Substance use 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declares that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    O’Toole, M. E. (2014). Violence is changing: Are we prepared? Violence and Gender, 1(4), 143–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2013). Violence, crime, and abuse exposure in a national sample of children and youth: An update. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(7), 614–621.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., Finkelhor, D., & Hamby, S. (2016). Polyvictimization and youth violence exposure across contexts. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58(2), 208–214.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Anne, E. (2017). Casey Foundation. 2017 Kids Count Data Book. Baltimore, MD. Retrieved September 3, 2017 from
  6. 6.
    Price, J. H., & Khubchandani, J. (2017). Adolescent homicides, suicides, and the role of firearms: A narrative review. American Journal of Health Education, 48(2), 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Thompson, T., & Massat, C. R. (2005). Experiences of violence, post-traumatic stress, academic achievement and behavior problems of urban African-American children. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 22(5–6), 367–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dijkstra, J. K., Gest, S. D., Lindenberg, S., Veenstra, R., & Cillessen, A. H. (2012). Testing three explanations of the emergence of weapon carrying in peer context: The roles of aggression, victimization, and the social network. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(4), 371–376.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Perkins, S., & Graham-Bermann, S. (2012). Violence exposure and the development of school-related functioning: Mental health, neurocognition, and learning. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(1), 89–98.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Albdour, M., & Krouse, H. J. (2014). Bullying and victimization among African American adolescents: A literature review. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 27(2), 68–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Eriksson, I., Cater, A., Andershed, A. K., & Andershed, H. (2011). What protects youths from externalizing and internalising problems? A critical review of research findings and implications for practice. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 21(2), 113–125.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Murray, J., & Farrington, D. P. (2010). Risk factors for conduct disorder and delinquency: Key findings from longitudinal studies. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(10), 633–642.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gaylord-Harden, N. K., Dickson, D., & Pierre, C. (2016). Profiles of community violence exposure among African American youth: An examination of desensitization to violence using latent class analysis. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(11), 2077–2101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wang, C., Ryoo, J. H., Swearer, S. M., Turner, R., & Goldberg, T. S. (2017). Longitudinal relationships between bullying and moral disengagement among adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(6), 1304–1317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kahn, L., McManus, T., Harris, W., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J., & Zaza, S. (2016). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 65, 119.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bradshaw, C. P., Waasdorp, T. E., Goldweber, A., & Johnson, S. L. (2013). Bullies, gangs, drugs, and school: Understanding the overlap and the role of ethnicity and urbanicity. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(2), 220–234.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    van Geel, M., Vedder, P., & Tanilon, J. (2014). Bullying and weapon carrying: A meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(8), 714–720.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Finigan-Carr, N. M., Cheng, T. L., Gielen, A., Haynie, D. L., & Simons-Morton, B. (2015). Using the theory of planned behavior to predict aggression and weapons carrying in urban African American early adolescent youth. Health Education & Behavior, 42(2), 220–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Myers, G. P., McGrady, G. A., Marrow, C., & Mueller, C. W. (1997). Weapon carrying among black adolescents: A social network perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 87(6), 1038–1040.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Martin, S. L., Sadowski, L. S., Cotten, N. U., & McCarraher, D. R. (1996). Response of African-American adolescents in North Carolina to gun carrying by school mates. Journal of School Health, 66(1), 23–26.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Simckes, M. S., Simonetti, J. A., Moreno, M. A., Rivara, F. P., Oudekerk, B. A., & Rowhani-Rahbar, A. (2017). Access to a loaded gun without adult permission and school-based bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(3), 329–334.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., Igielnik, R., Oliphant, B., & Brown, A. (2017). America’s complex relationship with guns: An in-depth look at the attitudes and experiences of US adults. Pew Research Center: Social and Demographic Trends. Retrieved December 9, from
  23. 23.
    Leventhal, J. M., Gaither, J. R., & Sege, R. (2014). Hospitalizations due to firearm injuries in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 133(2), 219–225.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J., Harris, W. A., & Whittle, L. (2014). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Surveillance Summaries, 63(4), 1–168.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). YRBSS Data & Documentation. Retrieved October 30, from
  26. 26.
    Khubchandani, J., & Price, J. H. (2018). Violence related behaviors and weapon carrying among Hispanic adolescents: Results from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2001–2015. Journal of Community Health, 43(2), 391–399.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). Retrieved February 27, from
  28. 28.
    Carter, P. M., Walton, M. A., Newton, M. F., Clery, M., Whiteside, L. K., Zimmerman, M. A., & Cunningham, R. M. (2013). Firearm possession among adolescents presenting to an urban emergency department for assault. Pediatrics, 132(2), 213–221.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Kulig, J., Valentine, J., Griffith, J., & Ruthazer, R. (1998). Predictive model of weapon carrying among urban high school students: Results and validation. Journal of Adolescent Health, 22(4), 312–319.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Shetgiri, R., Boots, D. P., Lin, H., & Cheng, T. L. (2016). Predictors of weapon-related behaviors among African American, Latino, and White youth. Journal of Pediatrics, 171, 277–282.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Estell, D. B., Farmer, T. W., Cairns, B. D., & Clemmer, J. T. (2003). Self-report weapon possession in school and patterns of early adolescent adjustment in rural African American youth. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32(3), 442–452.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Salas-Wright, C. P., Nelson, E. J., Vaughn, M. G., Reingle Gonzalez, J. M., & Córdova, D. (2017). Trends in fighting and violence among adolescents in the United States, 2002–2014. American Journal of Public Health, 107(6), 977–982.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Vaughn, M. G., Salas-Wright, C. P., Boutwell, B. B., DeLisi, M., & Curtis, M. P. (2017). Handgun carrying among youth in the United States: An analysis of subtypes. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 15(1), 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Xuan, Z., & Hemenway, D. (2015). State gun law environment and youth gun carrying in the United States. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(11), 1024–1031.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    DeLisi, M., Piquero, A. R., & Cardwell, S. M. (2016). The unpredictability of murder: Juvenile homicide in the pathways to desistance study. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 14(1), 26–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Reich, K., Culross, P. L., & Behrman, R. E. (2002). Children, youth, and gun violence: Analysis and recommendations. The Future of Children, 12(2), 4–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutrition and Health ScienceBall State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA

Personalised recommendations