Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Vulnerability to Victimization, Concurrent Problem Behaviors, and Peer Influence as Predictors of In-School Weapon Carrying among High School Students

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Vulnerability to Victimization, Concurrent Problem Behaviors, and Peer Influence as Predictors of In-School Weapon Carrying among High School Students

Article excerpt

Previous research has indicated the potential relevance of three constructs in the prediction of adolescent weapon carrying, (a) general delinquency, (b) self-protection, and (c) social influence. The current study tests the independent associations between in-school weapon carrying and these three constructs. The sample consisted of 504 students from seven southern California high schools. Overall, 25% of the sample carried a weapon to school in the last year. Self-defense was the most commonly reported reason for in-school weapon carrying. The results from a simultaneous logistic regression analysis indicated increased risk of in-school weapon carrying among students who are male, who are affiliated with gangs or tagging crews, who are exposed to peers who carry weapons to school, and who feel vulnerable to being victimized. Prevention programs targeted at reducing in-school weapon carrying may benefit from a comprehensive focus that includes efforts to reduce involvement in other problem behaviors, influence norms regarding weapon carrying, and reduce actual and perceived vulnerability to victimization.

The educational system is not immune to the impact of community violence. In 1995,20% of high school students in the United States reported carrying a weapon in the last 30 days, and nearly half of these youth (9.8% of the total sample) reported carrying a weapon while on school grounds (Kann et al., 1996). Siegel and Senna (1991) estimate that while 25% of adolescents' time is spent in school, 40% of robberies and 36% of physical assaults on adolescents occur while at school. According to the California Department of Education (1989), during the 1987-1988 school year, 162,061 school crimes were reported including 59,973 incidents of assaults, attack, or menace. A total of 789 incidents of handgun possession were reported. This figure represents a 28% increase from the previous year.

Due to the risks associated with weapon possession, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1991) has established the reduction of weapon carrying by adolescents as a national objective for the year 2000 (objective 7.10, p. 101). Information on the determinants of weapon carrying is necessary for the development of prevention strategies to address this goal.

The rate of weapon carrying among adolescents began receiving increased attention in the research community in 1991 with the publication of the results from a national survey of adolescents indicating that 19.6% of adolescents had carried a weapon in the last 30 days (Centers for Disease Control, 1991). At first, other studies tended to simply document rates of weapon involvement in different subpopulations of adolescents and examined the association between weapon involvement and participation in other delinquent activities without emphasizing theory (Callahan & Rivara, 1992; Callahan, Rivara, & Farrow, 1993; Sheley, McGee, & Wright, 1992). More recently, problem behavior and general delinquency theories have been suggested as useful tools for conceptualizing the motivation for weapon carrying among adolescents (Orpinas, Basen-Engquist, Grunbaum & Parcel, 1995; Valois McKeon, Garrison, & Vincent, 1995; Webster, Gainer, & Champion, 1993). According to this perspective, weapon carrying should be viewed as part of a constellation of problem behaviors. This perspective is supported by the fact that weapon-carrying behavior is strongly associated with participation in a variety of other problem behaviors such as drug use and sales, involvement with gangs, suspension from school, assaultive behavior, suicide attempts, and number of sexual partners (Black & Ricardo, 1994; Callahan & Rivara, 1992; Durant, Getts, Cadenhead, & Woods, 1995; Orpinas et al., 1995; Valois,et al., 1995; Wolf, Bishop, Guagliardo, & D'Angelo, 1992).

Although the association between weapon carrying and participation in other problem behaviors is high, not all youth who carry weapons are involved in other problem behaviors (Callahan & Rivara, 1992). …

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