Annual Research Review: Youth firearm violence disparities in the United States and implications for prevention

Jessika H. Bottiani, Daniel A. Camacho, Sarah Lindstrom Johnson, Catherine P. Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Research has identified the United States (U.S.) as a global outlier in its firearm ownership rates, with a correspondingly higher risk of youth firearm violence compared to other countries. The relative extent of disparities in youth firearm violence within the U.S. has been less clear. Little is known about factors in the social ecology driving these disparities and whether current firearm violence prevention approaches sufficiently address them. Method: Applying a health disparities framework, we synthesized epidemiological, sociological, and prevention science literatures, emphasizing structural inequalities in youth sociocultural positionality in life course developmental context. We also highlighted findings from national injury data and other studies regarding the magnitude and impacts of youth firearm violence disparities. Results: The burden of firearm violence varied markedly at intersections of gender, race, place, developmental stage, and homicidal or suicidal intent. Firearm homicide among Black boys and young men (ages 15-24) was at outlier levels - many times greater than the rates of any other demographic group, developmental stage, or violence intent, particularly in urban settings. Recent research has operationalized structural racism and implicated historically racialized spaces as a root cause of this disparity. In contrast, elevated firearm suicide rates were found among Native and White boys and young men in rural settings; firearm-related cultural attitudes and gender socialization were points of consideration to explain these disparities. We highlighted research-based youth firearm violence preventive interventions, and emphasized gaps in efforts focused on structural and sociocultural factors. Conclusions: More explicit attention to reducing firearm homicide among Black boys and young men and firearm suicide among Native and rural White boys and young men is urgently needed and has potential to substantially lower overall rates of firearm violence in the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-579
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Adolescence
  • firearm violence
  • prevention
  • racial disparities
  • socio-cultural influence
  • structural inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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