The Transmission of Gun and Other Weapon-Involved Violence Within Social Networks

Epidemiol Rev. 2016;38(1):70-86. doi: 10.1093/epirev/mxv009. Epub 2016 Jan 5.


Fatal and nonfatal injuries resulting from gun violence remain a persistent problem in the United States. The available research suggests that gun violence diffuses among people and across places through social relationships. Understanding the relationship between gun violence within social networks and individual gun violence risk is critical in preventing the spread of gun violence within populations. This systematic review examines the existing scientific evidence on the transmission of gun and other weapon-related violence in household, intimate partner, peer, and co-offending networks. Our review identified 16 studies published between 1996 and 2015 that suggest that exposure to a victim or perpetrator of violence in one's interpersonal relationships and social networks increases the risk of individual victimization and perpetration. Formal network analyses find high concentrations of gun violence in small networks and that exposure to gun violence in one's networks is highly correlated with one's own probability of being a gunshot victim. Physical violence by parents and weapon use by intimate partners also increase risk for victimization and perpetration. Additional work is needed to better characterize the mechanisms through which network exposures increase individual risk for violence and to evaluate interventions aimed at disrupting the spread of gun and other weapon violence in high-risk social networks.

Keywords: crime victims; domestic violence; family; firearms; homicide; peer group; spouses; violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Peer Group*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Weapons / statistics & numerical data*