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National Survey of Weapon-Related Experiences, Behaviors, and Concerns of High School Youth in the United States, 1996 (ICPSR 2580) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

This national-level survey of youth was undertaken to gather detailed behavioral and attitudinal data concerning weapons and violence. The research project sought to obtain information from a broad sample of high-school-aged youth to achieve diversity regarding history, cultural background, population size and density, urban and non-urban mix, economic situation, and class, race, and ethnic distributions. Data for the study were derived from two surveys conducted during the spring of 1996. The first survey was a lengthy questionnaire that focused on exposure to weapons (primarily firearms and knives) and violence, and was completed by 733 10th- and 11th-grade male students. Detail was gathered on all weapon-related incidents up to 12 months prior to the survey. The second survey, consisting of a questionnaire completed by 48 administrators of the 53 schools that the students attended, provided information regarding school characteristics, levels of weapon-related activity in the schools, and anti-violence strategies employed by the schools. The student survey covered demographic characteristics of the respondent, family living situations, educational situations and aspirations, drug, criminal, and gang activities, crime- and violence-related characteristics of family and friends, respondent's social and recreational activities, exposure to violence generally, personal victimization history, and possession of and activities relating to firearms and knives. Administrators were asked to provide basic demographic data about their schools and to rate the seriousness of violence, drugs, guns, and other weapons in their institutions. They were asked to provide weapon-related information about the average male junior in their schools as well as to estimate the number of incidents involving types of weapons on school grounds during the past three years. The administrators were also asked to identify, from an extensive list of violence reduction measures, those that were practiced at their schools. Variables are also provided about the type of school, grades taught, enrollment, and size of the community. In addition to the data collected directly from students and school administrators, Census information concerning the cities and towns in which the sampled schools were located was also obtained. Census data include size of the city or town, racial and ethnic population distributions, age, gender, and educational attainment distributions, median household and per capita income distributions, poverty rates, labor force and unemployment rates, and violent and property crime rates.

Access Notes

  • These data are freely available.

Dataset(s)

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Documentation:

Study Description

Citation

Sheley, Joseph F., and James D. Wright. NATIONAL SURVEY OF WEAPON-RELATED EXPERIENCES, BEHAVIORS, AND CONCERNS OF HIGH SCHOOL YOUTH IN THE UNITED STATES, 1996. ICPSR02580-v1. New Orleans, LA: Tulane University [producer], 1998. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR02580.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (94-IJ-CX-0033)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   crime in schools, crime prevention, demographic characteristics, firearms, high school students, high schools, school violence, violence, weapons, weapons offenses, youths

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1996

Date of Collection:  

  • 1996

Unit of Observation:   Individuals or schools and neighborhoods, depending on selection of cases.

Universe:   Male high school students and high schools in the United States.

Data Types:   survey data, census/enumeration data, and administrative records data

Data Collection Notes:

The administrator responses, census data, and school data are attached to each student record in the data file. Information on how to select the first occurrence of these data for each school from repeated occurrences is provided in the codebook.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   It has been observed that generalizable and detailed information on weapon-related behaviors among American youth is absent from extant research. Past national-level studies asked only very general questions about weapon-related violence among youth. Other studies that utilized more select samples and provided slightly more detail were hampered by questions of generalizability, not the least of which pertained to their urban, and often inner-city, focus. What is singularly absent from the store of information about youth, weapons, and violence is detailed data from the broader spectrum of American juveniles -- high-school-aged youth from a range of social and geographic environments. This research project sought to obtain information from a broad sample of high-school-aged youth to achieve diversity regarding history, cultural diversity, population size and density, urban and non-urban mix, economic situation, and class, race, and ethnic distributions. This study sought to address the following important questions regarding weapon-related activity among youth: (1) If weapons are indeed prevalent among youth, what kinds of weapons are they? (2) To what use are they put -- protection, intimidation, crime? (3) In what settings are weapons carried -- on school grounds or away from school? (4) Does weapon-carrying differ in quantity and quality across the urban and non-urban spectrum and across racial and ethnic groups, social classes, and age groups? (5) In what ways are these behaviors linked to criminal, gang, and drug activity among youth? (6) Does weapon-related victimization vary across urban and non-urban settings and across sociodemographic categories that distinguish youth? (7) In what ways does involvement in illegal activities by youth increase the likelihood of weapon-related victimization? (8) What kinds of guns are young people likely to possess or carry? (9) Where and how do juveniles obtain their firearms? (10) Is the link between drug trafficking and the possession and use of guns by students more or less strong than the link between drug activity and the possession and use of other types of weapons?

Study Design:   Data for this study were derived from two surveys conducted during the spring of 1996. The first survey was a lengthy questionnaire that focused on exposure to weapons (primarily firearms and knives) and violence, and was completed by 733 10th and 11th-grade male students. Detail was gathered on all related incidents up to 12 months prior to the survey. The second survey, consisting of a questionnaire completed by 48 administrators of the 53 schools that the students attended, provided information regarding school characteristics, levels of weapon-related activity in the schools, and anti-violence strategies employed by the schools. Researchers initially sought to procure lists of 10th and 11th-grade students from which they would choose a sample. In 8 of the 53 schools, project staff were allowed to obtain the lists and choose a sample of 10 percent. They sent each student in the sample a letter describing the study and guaranteeing confidentiality, a copy of the survey, a postage-paid return envelope, and a ticket which, when completed and returned with the survey, granted the respondent eligibility to win one of ten cash prizes of $100 to be awarded through a drawing. Distribution of these student surveys followed Dillman's (1978, 1983) Total Design Method. Two follow-up letters were sent to those who did not respond to the original request. The principals from the remaining 45 participating schools chose to select the 10-percent sample from their rosters themselves, via a prescribed method: The researchers chose a number from one to ten. Principals started with the assigned number and counted down, selecting every tenth student. The principals then forwarded to their students, by mail, the packet described above with cover letters they had written. In a few schools, the administrators worked with the researchers to develop a numbering system by which they could identify and mail a second packet to students who had not responded to the first mailing. The majority, however, did not have the resources to develop a follow-up effort. Most student respondents completed over 95 percent of the items in the survey. All administrators who responded completed the entire administrator's survey. Student and administrator questionnaires were primarily forced-choice. In addition to the data collected directly from students and school administrators, Census information concerning the cities and towns in which the sampled schools were located was also obtained.

Sample:   Random sample of high schools, 10-percent sample of enrolled male high school students.

Data Source:

self-enumerated questionnaires, PATTERSON'S AMERICAN EDUCATION (Educational Directory Inc., 1994), and records from the United States Bureau of the Census

Description of Variables:   The student survey covered demographic characteristics of the respondent, family living situations, educational situations and aspirations, drug, criminal, and gang activities, crime- and violence-related characteristics of family and friends, respondent's social and recreational activities, exposure to violence generally, personal victimization history, and possession of and activities relating to firearms and knives. Administrators were asked to provide basic demographic data about their schools and to rate the seriousness of violence, drugs, guns, and other weapons in their institutions. They were asked to provide weapon-related information about the average male junior in their schools as well as to estimate the number of incidents involving types of various weapons on school grounds during the past three years. The administrators were also asked to identify, from an extensive list of violence reduction measures, those that were practiced at their schools. Variables are also provided about the type of school, grades taught, enrollment, and size of the community. Census data include size of the city or town, racial and ethnic population distributions, age, gender, and educational attainment distributions, median household and per capita income distributions, poverty rates, labor force and unemployment rates, and violent and property crime rates.

Response Rates:   Student surveys distributed by researchers produced a response rate of 33 percent within a range of 27 to 50 percent (45 completed surveys). The school-distributed method produced an average response rate of 46 percent, within a range of 15 percent to 99 percent (689 completed surveys). Of the 53 administrators participating in the study, 90 percent (48 administrators) completed the survey.

Presence of Common Scales:   Several Likert-type scales were used.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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