Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms

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Abstract

Objective

To assess the accuracy of parental predictions about their children's self-reported behavior around household guns.

Design

Survey.

Setting

Family practice clinic in rural Alabama.

Participants

Convenience sample of parents and their children aged 5 to 14 years.

Intervention

Questionnaires about firearms administered separately to children and their parents.

Main Outcome Measures

Rates of concordance and discordance between parents and their children living in homes with guns about whether the children knew the storage location of household firearms and had ever handled firearms in the home.

Results

Of 420 parent-child dyads, 314 agreed to participate; 201 of the 314 homes contained guns. Children younger than 10 years were as likely as older children to report knowing the storage location (73% vs 79%, respectively) and to report having handled a household gun (36% vs 36%, respectively). Thirty-nine percent of parents who reported that their children did not know the storage location of household guns and 22% of parents who reported that their children had never handled a household gun were contradicted by their children's reports. Such discordance between parent and child reports was unrelated to whether parents stored their firearms locked away or had ever discussed firearm safety with their children.

Conclusions

Many parents who were living in homes with firearms and who reported that their children had never handled firearms in their homes were contradicted by their children's self-reports. Parents who locked their guns away and discussed gun safety with their children were as likely to be contradicted as parents who did not take such safety measures.

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