Mitigating the effects of gun violence on children and youth

Future Child. 2002 Summer-Fall;12(2):72-85.


Countless children and youth are exposed to gun violence each year--at home, at school, in their communities, or through the media. Gun violence can leave lasting emotional scars on these children. This article reviews research regarding the psychological effects of gun violence on children and youth, and offers suggestions for how parents, school administrators, and mental health workers can mitigate these negative effects. Children exposed to gun violence may experience negative short- and long-term psychological effects, including anger, withdrawal, posttraumatic stress, and desensitization to violence. All of these outcomes can feed into a continuing cycle of violence. Certain children may be at higher risk for negative outcomes if they are exposed to gun violence. Groups at risk include children injured in gun violence, those who witness violent acts at close proximity, those exposed to high levels of violence in their communities or schools, and those exposed to violent media. Parents, school administrators, and mental health workers all can play key roles in protecting children from gun violence and helping them overcome the effects of gun-related trauma. The authors recommend a number of strategies that adults can adopt to help children cope with gun violence, such as increasing parental monitoring, targeting services to youth at risk of violent activity, and developing therapeutic interventions to help traumatized young people.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Parenting
  • United States
  • Violence / psychology*