Adolescents' Concerns About School Violence or Shootings and Association With Depressive, Anxiety, and Panic Symptoms

Kira E. Riehm, Ramin Mojtabai, Leslie B. Adams, Evan A. Krueger, Delvon T. Mattingly, Paul S. Nestadt, Adam M. Leventhal

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17 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE The prevalence of internalizing problems among US adolescents has risen in the past decade. The extent to which concerns about school violence or shootings are associated with risk of internalizing problems is unknown. OBJECTIVE To examine the prospective association of concern, worry, and stress related to school violence or shootings with internalizing problems and to examine sex and racial and ethnic differences in the magnitude of the associations. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This longitudinal cohort study involved 3 surveys administered 6 months apart (fall of grade 11 [prebaseline]; spring of grade 11 [baseline]; and fall of grade 12 [follow-up]) from 2015 to 2016. Participants included 2263 students from 10 high schools in Los Angeles, California. Analyses were performed from April 29, 2020, to April 8, 2021. EXPOSURES Baseline self-reported level of concern, worry, and stress about shootings or violence at the student's school or other schools, each rated on 5-point scales (ranging from not at all [0] to extremely [4]) with a mean score calculated as a 3-item composite index rescaled into z-score standard deviation units. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Surpassing clinically significant or borderline significant thresholds for major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder based on symptom ratings on the Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale at 6-month follow-up. RESULTS Of the 2263 students included in the analyses (1250 [55.2% ] girls; mean [SD] age, 16.5 [0.4] years), appreciable proportions reported being very or extremely concerned (850 0f 2226 [38.2% ]), worried (703 of 2209 [31.8% ]), or stressed (332 of 2183 [15.2% ]) about shootings or violence at their school or other schools. After adjusting for prebaseline covariates, concerns about school violence or shootingswere associated with clinically significant generalized anxiety symptoms (odds ratio [OR], 1.31; 95% CI, 1.15-1.50) and panic symptoms (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.05-1.32), but not depressive symptoms (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.99-1.30) at the 6-month follow-up. There was a significant association between concern with school violence or shootings and depressive symptoms for Black youth (OR, 3.15; 95% CI, 1.38-7.19) and non-Hispanic/Latinx White youth (OR, 1.62 [95% CI, 1.25-2.09]) but not for youth of other races and ethnicities (OR for Asian, 1.26 [95% CI, 0.86-1.85]; OR for Hispanic/Latinx, 0.94 [95% CI, 0.76-1.16]; OR for other, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.54-1.61]). Sex did not moderate these associations. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The findings of this study suggest that concern, worry, and stress related to school violence or shootings may be risk factors for internalizing problems among adolescents, with variation in the strength of the association by race/ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2132131
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Riehm KE et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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