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Fears and Other Suspected Risk Factors for Carrying Lethal Weapons Among Urban Youths of Middle-school Age

Amelia Arria, PhD; Guilherme Borges, PhD; James C. Anthony, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(6):555-560. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170430021004.
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Objective:  To estimate the strength of a suspected causal association between fearfulness and carrying a lethal weapon among urban middle-school students, while holding constant other suspected risk factors.

Design:  A prospective study of an epidemiological sample assessed at baseline in 1992 and 1 year later, with relative risk estimates derived from the conditional form of the multiple logistic regression model used to hold constant alternative explanatory variables.

Setting:  An urban environment in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

Participants:  An epidemiological sample of 1131 youths enrolled in public middle schools.

Main Outcome Measures:  Carrying a lethal weapon for protection or defense during a 1-year observation interval after the baseline assessment of fears and other suspected risk factors.

Results:  Of the 1131 youths, 194 (17%) reported carrying a lethal weapon for protection or defense during the 1-year interval of follow-up observation after baseline; 937 youths (83%) reported that they had not carried a lethal weapon for any reason. Self-reported fears, deviant peer affiliation, and worrying were associated with risk of starting to carry a weapon. For youths with the lowest worrying scores, the lowest neighborhood danger scores, and the least affiliation with deviant peers, self-reported fears were associated with risk of starting to carry a lethal weapon (relative risk estimate, 1.68; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-2.52; P=.01), even after holding constant age, sex, and conduct problems. However, the fear of crowded or closed-in places and the fear of leaving home alone were more salient risk factors than the fear of using public transportation or the fear of open spaces.

Conclusions:  In this study, youths with fears were at greater risk of carrying a lethal weapon for protection or defense, even when alternative explanatory variables were taken into account. Pending confirmation by other investigators, this new finding could point out a useful target for public health interventions to reduce the carrying of weapons and associated violence in urban America.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:555-560


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