Youth at Risk: Firearm Involvement, Injury, and Death

Firearm injuries and deaths pose a serious public health problem for young people in the United States. More than 90% of homicides among youth ages 15 to 24 years are related to firearms. Firearm assaults account for 65 nonfatal injuries in youth every day. Black and Hispanic youth are disproportionately impacted by firearm violence. In 2021, for example, Black youth comprised 14% of the adolescent population, but 69% of those killed by firearms. Youth involved in the justice system are at great risk for perpetrating firearm violence and becoming victims. Yet, few studies have examined firearm violence in this population as they transition from adolescence into adulthood, or how experiences with firearms during their own adolescence might subsequently affect their children.

We address this key omission using new data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project (NJP), the largest prospective, longitudinal study of the health needs and outcomes of youth after detention. We randomly sampled 1,829 youth at intake to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Cook County, Illinois between 1995 and 1998. Our most recent waves of data come from the Northwestern Juvenile Project: Next Generation; a study of 332 of our original participants and the oldest biological child living with them, ages 10-18 years. This panel includes three papers: (1) Reducing Firearm Violence: Lessons Learned from the Northwestern Juvenile Project; (2) Victims as Well as Perpetrators: Firearm Injury and Death 25 Years after Juvenile Detention; and (3) Firearm Involvement in Parents and their Adolescent Children: Intergenerational Patterns of Firearm Violence.

Dr. Linda A. Teplin is the Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Vice Chair of Research, and the Director of the Health Disparities and Public Policy Program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  She is Principal Investigator of the Northwestern Juvenile Project and Next Generation



Nanzi Zheng is a PhD Candidate in Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.  Her research focuses on firearm violence and intimate partner violence over time among youth who have been involved with the juvenile justice system. 



Dr. Sara E. Thomas is a Research Assistant Professor with the Health Disparities and Public Policy program at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.  Her research focuses on social stressors in adolescence and their long-term consequences for psychosocial development and health.