Psychiatric Disorders and Gun Carrying among Adolescents in the United States

Rose M.C. Kagawa, Dahsan S. Gary, Garen J. Wintemute, Kara E. Rudolph, Veronica A. Pear, Katherine Keyes, Magdalena Cerdá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: To estimate associations between psychiatric disorders and gun carrying among adolescents and to estimate the total number of adolescents in the US who have psychiatric disorders and report carrying guns. Study design: We used cross-sectional data from the National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement, a nationally representative sample of adolescents age 13-18 years (N = 10 123; response rate = 75.6%). Psychiatric disorders were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Gun carrying in the 30 days prior to the interview was assessed by self-report. We used multivariable Poisson regression to test for associations. Results: The analytic sample included 10 112 adolescents, 2.4% of whom reported carrying a gun in the prior 30 days. The prevalence of gun carrying was greater among adolescents with conduct disorder (adjusted prevalence ratio [APR] = 1.88, 95% CI 1.38, 2.57), drug use disorders (APR = 1.91, 95% CI 1.05, 3.45), and specific phobias (APR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.07, 2.22) compared with adolescents without these disorders. We estimated that 1.1% (95% CI 0.77, 1.48) of adolescents with a disorder associated with self- or other-directed violence also carry guns. Nationally, that is approximately 272 000 adolescents with both risk factors. Conclusions: Specific psychiatric disorders are associated with an increased risk of gun carrying among adolescents, but the vast majority of adolescents with psychiatric disorders did not report gun carrying. Targeted efforts to assess access to and use of firearms in mental healthcare and other clinical settings are important, as are efforts to identify population approaches to prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • adolescent behavior
  • firearm violence
  • mental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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