At age 17, 9% of boys taking part in Child of the New Century (CNC) said they had carried or used a weapon, with one in four of them reporting they were gang members, according to UCL research.
The new study shows that among members of your generation, those who had carried or used a weapon at age 17 were also more likely to have committed other offences, such as assault, breaking and entering, theft, and criminal damage. In addition, they were much more likely to have offended many times in the past year. The research also reveals the significant role that childhood circumstances and experiences play in shaping teenagers’ behaviours, and how they can influence the paths young people take as they approach adulthood.
What we asked you
When you were 17, we asked you whether you had committed any criminal offences in the past year, including carrying or using a weapon, assault, shoplifting, breaking and entering, vehicle theft, stealing from others, and vandalism. We also asked you whether you had ever been a gang member, and whether you had had contact with the police.
What the researchers found
The findings show one in 15 (6.4%) CNC members had carried or used a weapon in the past year, with boys more than twice as likely to have done this than girls (8.8% v 3.9%).
Those of you who had carried or used a weapon were 10 times more likely to have ever been a gang member compared to those who had not (26% v 2.5%). They were also 10 times more likely to have engaged in neighbourhood crime, such as breaking and entering, stealing from others, or vehicle theft (20% v 1.8%), seven times more likely to have engaged in criminal damage and arson (51% v 6.8%), and two and a half times more likely to have committed assault (66% v 25%).
In addition, one in three of those who had carried or used a weapon had committed 10 or more offences in the past year, compared to just one in 25 of those who hadn’t carried or used a weapon (36% v 3.5%).
The researchers also used information you and your parents have provided throughout your lives, and found that those of you who had used substances at age 14 (drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or taking drugs) and those who had friends who had used multiple substances in early adolescence, were at greater risk of carrying or using a weapon at age 17. Those who were excluded from school between ages 11 and 14 were also more likely to carry or use weapons at age 17.
Members of your generation who were brought up in less well-off families, those who experienced domestic abuse between parents, and those with mental health problems, such as behavioural issues and hyperactivity between ages 3 and 11, and self-harm at age 14, were more likely to have carried or used a weapon at age 17.
Why this research matters
Although young people today are no more likely to carry weapons than previous generations, there has been an increase in knife use and possession in the past five years. Thanks to CNC data, policymakers and practitioners know that in order to address this rise in weapon-related incidents, they should target the following areas: low family income, domestic abuse between parents, child conduct problems, adolescent mental health, substance use, peer substance use, and school exclusion.
Find out more about this research
This research was published as a briefing paper by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at UCL in June 2021.