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About one in four 6- to 17-year-olds in the United States have been directly exposed to violence involving a weapon—such as a knife, gun, stick or rock—either as a witness or a victim, with such violence increasing their chances of depression, anxiety and aggression, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The big picture, as reported by CNN, is that too frequently are our children facing violence at a young age, causing potential harm that could last a lifetime.
"The numbers were higher than I expected. That's a lot of kids," Kimberly Mitchell, one of the co-authors of the study, told CNN. "Even when you take into account that these kids are victimized in so many different ways, this type of experience with a weapon is still related to their mental health."
Mitchell, a research associate professor of psychology at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, also said that children who were exposed to violence involving a lethal weapon like a gun or knife were "significantly more likely" to suffer from depression, anxiety, anger or aggression than children who were not exposed to such weapons—even after factoring out variables that could cause trauma, such as physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.
However, children who were exposed to violence involving a weapon were more likely to experience a range of other victimization in the past year, including being neglected at home or sexually abused. They were also more likely to be around peers who carried weapons, or to carry weapons themselves.
The takeaway from the study is that more policies should be implemented on the national level to curb youth expose to weapons, and "the importance of a public health approach to this problem and start to look for some community and more policy-level [actions]," Mitchell said.