Rural and suburban 5-8 year old children: Gun-injury risks and crisis responses

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Virginia Tech

Recent research has provided empirical support for counseling guidelines for pediatric gun safety and has demonstrated that some parental behaviors increase children's risk of gun injury. However, few data exist on patterns of gun-injury risks, especially for children younger than age 10, children from middle-class and non-urban families, and children of non-gun-owning vs. gun-owning parents. Part I of the study presents data on gun injury risks in a middle-SES sample of rural and suburban gun-owning and non-gun-owning parents and their 5-8-year-old children (N=60). Gun-owners (38.3% of the sample) endorsed an average of 10.57 out of 21 assessed gun injury risks, and evinced variable patterns of gun injury risks. Gun injury risks were much lower among non-gun-owners. However, a small number of non-gun-owners reported their children to have gun exposure risks more typical of gun-owners' children (e.g., child goes hunting/shooting). Part II of the study presents data on the children's responses to a crisis scenario involving a threat associated with defensive gun use (home intrusion). Children's crisis response plans were categorized as competent, passive, bold, or aggressive/gun. Competent plans were common (38.6%). However, most children generated non-competent crisis responses, including passive plans (21.1%), bold plans (19.3%), and aggressive/gun plans (21.1%). These results may help to identify styles of crisis response for targeted preventive interventions and emergency response training. The common theme in these results is that encouraging safe behavior, whether by young children responding to a crisis or by parents who own guns, requires an understanding of motivations for unsafe behavior and barriers to safer behavior.

rural, parenting, injury, firearms/guns, Children, scenarios, suburban, prevention, emergency responding