1. In a prospective longitudinal study, childhood gun access or gun ownership was associated with adult ownership/carrying, exposure to gun violence, criminality, and suicidality.
2. The association persisted after adjusting for childhood demographic, psychosocial, and psychiatric correlates of gun access.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: Childhood gun access has been linked to adverse childhood outcomes such as injuries and suicide. This prospective cohort study investigated the impact of childhood gun access on later outcomes during adulthood by following children from North Carolina for over more than 20 years. Adult outcomes included gun ownership/carrying, exposure to gun violence, criminality, and suicidality. Overall, household gun access and childhood gun ownership were associated with an increased risk of all outcome measures, even after adjusting for correlates of childhood gun access such as behavioral problems. These findings seem to indicate that childhood gun access is an independent risk factor for certain adult adverse outcomes, and that mitigation strategies should be explored. While strengthened by its large cohort and robust follow-up, this study’s widespread application is limited in that it is geographically restricted to predominantly rural communities in North Carolina.
In-Depth [prospective cohort]: This prospective cohort study gathered data on 1420 children who were followed as part of the Great Smoky Mountains longitudinal representative study in North Carolina. Childhood data were gathered via an annual interview until age 16 that included questions about demographics, in-home gun access, and psychosocial risk measures. Adult data were gathered at ages 19, 21, 25, and 30, and included information regarding owning/carrying a gun, exposure to gun violence, criminality, and suicidality. Adult data were similarly gathered by interview, with the exception of criminality items where official charges were included. Overall, 55.1% (95% CI 52.1-58.7%) of children had guns in their homes. Of these, 63.3% (95% CI 59.7-66.9%) had access to the gun, and 25.0% (95% CI 21.2-28.8%) owned their own. Growing up with a gun in the home was found to be associated with owning/carrying a gun as an adult, but was not associated with exposure to gun violence, criminality, or suicidality. However, growing up with gun access or with owning a gun was found to be associated with all of these outcomes. This association remained even after data were adjusted for individual risk factors.
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