Gun Violence Exposure and Posttraumatic Symptoms Among Children and Youth

Heather A. Turner, Kimberly J. Mitchell, Lisa M. Jones, Sherry Hamby, Roy Wade, Cheryl L. Beseler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although statistics on youth homicide and injury from gun violence are available, little research has focused on how gun violence overlaps with other victimizations or on the psychological impact of gun violence on children. Pilot survey data were collected on the experiences of 630 U.S. children (age range: 2–17 years) from Boston, Philadelphia, and rural areas of eastern Tennessee. Youth aged 10–17 years completed a self-report survey on a wide range of gun violence exposures, and parents of younger children (aged 2–9 years) completed the survey as a proxy for that child. Direct gun violence exposure, witnessing gun violence, and hearing gunshots were all significantly associated with other forms of victimization, rs =.10–.38, p <.001. The findings suggest that youth who experience direct gun violence are often exposed to multiple violent contexts. For older youth (ages 10–17 years) polyvictimization was most strongly associated with posttraumatic symptoms, β =.35, p <.001, although witnessing gun violence still uniquely predicted a higher level of symptoms, β =.18, p <.01. For younger children (ages 2–9 years), hearing and witnessing gun violence were both related to posttraumatic symptoms, β =.15, p <.01 for both, even after controlling for polyvictimization. Mental health professionals and trauma-informed services should be mindful that the traumatic impact of gun violence for children may not necessarily be attached to direct victimization experiences but may also result from simply seeing or hearing it in their neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-889
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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