Gun carrying by high school students in Boston, MA: does overestimation of peer gun carrying matter?

J Adolesc. 2011 Oct;34(5):997-1003. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.11.008. Epub 2010 Dec 10.


This paper investigates: (1) whether high school students overestimate gun carrying by their peers, and (2) whether those students who overestimate peer gun carrying are more likely to carry firearms. Data come from a randomly sampled survey conducted in 2008 of over 1,700 high school students in Boston, MA. Over 5% of students reported carrying a gun, 9% of boys and 2% of girls. Students substantially overestimated the percentage of their peers who carried guns; the likelihood that a respondent carried a gun was strongly associated with their perception of the level of peer gun carrying. Most respondents believed it was easier for other youth to obtain guns than it was for them. Social marketing campaigns designed to lower young people's perceptions about the prevalence of peer gun carrying may be a promising strategy for reducing actual gun carrying among youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Boston
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Violence / prevention & control