Emotional and Behavioral Health Characteristics of Adolescents Who Carry Guns to School

Sudip Bhandari


Introduction: Gun-carrying and mental health problems among adolescents are risk factors for youth gun violence. This study sought to identify emotional and behavioral health characteristics of adolescents who carry guns to school. Methods: We used data from the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey of 9th and 12th graders to examine mental health characteristics of students with self-reported history of gun carrying on school property. Chi-square tests were used to compare students who carried a gun with those who did not. All analyses were conducted separately for boys and girls. Results: Among 41,760 males, 4%(1434) reported carrying a gun to school in the last 30 days, while 0.5%(226) of 42,343 females reported carrying a gun to school in the last 30 days (p<.001). Among both male and female students, gun carriers were more likely to report bullying perpetration, physical fighting, a suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, mental health problems that lasted at least 12 months, irritability and anger, being scared, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, impulsivity, symptoms of depression, and anxiety than those who did not carry a gun (p<.001 for all comparisons). For example, 42% of boys and 51% of girls who carried a gun reported bullying others vs. 9.6% of boys and 8.9% of girls who did not carry a gun. Among gun-carrying boys, 44% reported physical fighting and 31% reported a suicide attempt vs. 7.0% and 4.3% respectively among non-gun carriers. Among girls who carried guns, 36% reported physical fighting and 43% a suicide attempt vs. 3.1% and 7.5%, respectively, for girls who did not carry a gun. Conclusion: Many students who carry guns to school in Minnesota report emotional and behavioral health problems. It is critical that school staff and health providers identify students who carry guns to school and intervene with appropriate mental health and other resources.


Adolescents; Gun carrying; Mental health

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