Suicidal Ideation in Adolescence: The Role of In-Home Firearm Access and Childhood Maltreatment

  • Jinho KimEmail author
Original Paper



Despite a vast literature linking in-home firearm access to youth suicides, few studies have examined whether and how gaining access to household firearms shapes adolescents’ development of suicidal ideation.


This study examined whether gaining access to household firearms among U.S. adolescents is associated with suicidal ideation. To provide insights into the mechanisms underlying this relationship, this study assessed whether the association differs between adolescents with varying degrees of suicidal motives. This study focused on exposure to childhood maltreatment as suicidal motivation of interest.


This study used a nationally representative sample of 9973 U.S. adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). To account for a number of selection factors, exploiting the longitudinal nature of data and a rich set of individual- and family-level measures, this study employed OLS regression models with a lagged dependent variable and fixed effects models.


Results revealed that gaining access to household firearms is associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation for both male and female adolescents. This association was significantly greater for adolescents with history of childhood maltreatment among males, but not females.


This study supports the hypothesis that in-home firearm access is predictive of male adolescents’ suicidal ideation and this association is driven largely by those with history of child maltreatment. In contrast, for females, the association is not conditional on exposure to childhood maltreatment. These results suggest that the pathways through which in-home firearm access shapes adolescent suicidal ideation may be gender-specific.


Firearms Guns Suicide Childhood maltreatment Adolescents Gender 



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The use of the Add Health data for this study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Informed Consent

Add Health participants provided written informed consent for participation in all aspects of Add Health in accordance with the University of North Carolina School of Public Health Institutional Review Board guidelines that are based on the Code of Federal Regulations on the Protection of Human Subjects 45CFR46.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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