Gun Violence Exposure and Experiences of Depression Among Mothers

Publication Year


Journal Article

Gun violence is a uniquely prevalent issue in the USA that disproportionately affects disadvantaged families already at risk of health disparities. Despite the traumatic nature of witnessing gun violence, we have little knowledge of whether exposure to local gun violence is associated with higher risks of depression among mothers, whose symptoms of depression are likely to have spillover effects for kin. We examined the association between exposure to gun violence in mothers' neighborhoods and their experiences of depression using longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data (n = 4587) in tandem with lagged outcome and fixed effect models. We find that mothers who witness at least one shooting in their neighborhoods or local communities exhibit more symptoms of depression and are 32-60% more likely to meet criteria for depression than mothers who do not witness a shooting. We also find that witnessing a shooting is associated with increases in parental aggravation, which is partially mediated by maternal depression. Given this and other previously documented spillover effects of mothers' mental health on children and family members, these findings have important implications for mothers' wellbeing and their kin. Further, we observe substantial racial and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to gun violence, suggesting that gun violence may heighten health disparities and drawing attention to the importance of providing mental health resources in communities that are most affected by gun violence.

Prevention Science