All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Maja Altarac

Advisory Committee Members

John Bolland

David Schwebel

Mark Beasley

Shirley Hankins

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2010

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Violence has become increasingly more difficult to ignore in the United States, with homicide and suicide rates among American adolescents being the highest in the world. Firearm deaths have skyrocketed, including unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides; American adolescents are more likely to die from gunshot wounds than all natural causes combined. With homicide continuing to rank as the second leading cause of death among youth, research must focus on diminishing weapon brandishment. Based on prior research and a developmental systems approach to violent behavior, this study explores individual influences on adolescent weapon carrying, including perception of danger, hopelessness, and conflict resolution skills. The Mobile Youth Survey (MYS) is a community research project designed to determine decision making and subsequent health risk among impoverished adolescents. The current study utilized MYS data to determine the relationship between variables of interest and carrying a knife and/or razor and carrying a gun. Given that the current study is exploring adolescent weapon carrying over multiple years (1998-2006), factors associated with these behaviors were assessed cross-sectionally, then longitudinally. Older adolescents were more likely to report carrying a gun than younger adolescents in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Older adolescents were more likely to carry a knife than younger adolescents, but this relationship was only statistically significant for the longitudinal component of the study. Adolescents who reported a greater perception of danger were more likely to also report weapon brandishment than those that indicated less perception of danger, but this finding was only significant for the longitudinal component of the study. Adolescents who reported higher levels of hopelessness were more likely to report weapon brandishment than those that reported lower levels. Adolescents who endorsed more conflict management skills were more likely to report weapon brandishment. For the majority of independent variables, research hypotheses were confirmed. However, small odds ratios and homogeneity of sample characteristics may limit the relevance of some results. Intervention efforts should include a social-skills model for violence prevention. Future research efforts should take into account the uniqueness of impoverished populations, and support community-based projects where researchers have first-hand knowledge of generational poverty.

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