Today@Sam Article

Gun Violence Study Earns Postdoctoral Grant

Aug. 26, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

CJ Building at SHSUEric Connolly, associate professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University, is supervising a research project funded by a $50,000 postdoctoral grant from the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research. The project, run by Sultan Altikriti, a visiting assistant professor in sociology, criminology and criminal justice from Emmanuel College in Boston, examines roughly 1,000 youth involved in the justice system and plans to study the role of individual and situational factors for gun use from adolescence to adulthood.

The project’s subjects, located in Maricopa County, Arizona as well as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were evaluated ten times after the initial data collection period for seven years. This sample, dubbed the “Pathways to Desistance”, is a long-term study that allows a long-term assessment of key variables for individuals aged 14 through 25.

“We wanted to use this unique longitudinal data set to answer a few important empirical questions,” Connolly said. “One of them was to evaluate whether developmental changes in personality traits and behavioral tendencies are associated with changes in gun use in sample of juvenile youth?”

Gun use has increased in recent years among youth and adult offenders alike. The project’s first goal was to examine individual factors and how they associate with gun violence across seven years. The second goal was to examine situational factors such as access to guns in different types of contexts that could possibly condition the effect of individual factors on gun violence.

“We think it’s a timely project to unpack the nature of the interaction between individual and environmental risk factors for sustained gun use during adolescence,” Connolly said. “A few documented individual risk factors that we particularly wanted to look at in the sample were impulse control, suppression of aggression, and callousness, since these are commonly associated with serious forms of delinquent offending.”

They will begin running their analysis in the coming months.

“We plan to have some preliminary results toward the end of the fall,” Connolly said. “By the end of spring is when we hope to have a few manuscripts completed that will report our findings.”

One of the questions Connolly is most interested in is understanding the role of gun accessibility on the longitudinal relation between individual factors and gun use. Many of the adolescents in the Pathways to Desistance sample come from underserved communities and have experiences with various forms of abuse and neglect. Some of their family members and friends may already have firearms, resulting in easier access. But how does easier access increase or decrease the strength of the connection between impulsive control, callousness, and using a firearm against another person?

“While early access may likely be associated with ever carrying or using a firearm, I think there is still much to be learned about whether changes in accessibility during the profound social time of adolescence is related to one’s tendency for violence and actual firearm use,” Connolly said. “I’m especially curious to see if we find any connections between the continued access to guns, callousness, and persistence of gun use over time.”

Connolly will be working primarily on supervising data analysis for the postdoctoral research.

Required by the award agreement: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research.

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