Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


Handgun Owning During Emerging Adulthood: Predictors and Consequences

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Stephen Demuth (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Danielle Kuhl (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Monica Longmore (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Raymond Swisher (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Laura Stafford (Other)


Research on the causes and consequences of handgun ownership is constrained by the limited availability of large, representative, and longitudinal survey data that contain robust measures of social, psychological, and contextual measures thought to be associated with gun ownership and use. As a result, despite serious societal debate about handgun ownership and public concern about handgun violence, we know surprisingly little about why people own handguns, the social context of handgun ownership, or the effect of handgun ownership on crime, particularly the role it might play in intimate violence. The goal of this project is to examine more fully than has been done in the past factors that influence handgun ownership, and the consequences of owning handguns in the United States. I examine how socialization and culture, fear and victimization, political ideology, participation in crime and violence, and urban versus rural upbringing influence handgun ownership, and I test whether the presence of a handgun in the home is associated with intimate partner violence. I use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to examine handgun ownership across two chapters.

In chapter 1, I find that the strongest predictors of handgun ownership are socialization and culture. I find that having access to a gun in the home during adolescence, ever serving in the military, and ever being in a gang are all predictors of handgun ownership. I tested six hypotheses, and found support for all of them. This study also suggests that the gender effect, with men being more likely to own guns than women, is partially mediated by criminality and violence. In chapter 2, I examine the impact of handgun ownership on intimate partner violence and find only weak evidence that handgun ownership is related to IPV. I find that handgun ownership is significantly associated with increased odds of mutual IPV only at the zero order, and when other factors are included the effect no longer remains. This study suggests that the presence of a handgun in most relationships is not associated with increased odds of violence.