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Gun Violence and Desistance: The Role of Mentoring and Social Relations Among Early Violence Desisters


This project explores gun violence desistance mechanisms at work among high-risk young people newly involved in the street outreach-based Cure Violence (CV) model. The research examines how high-risk young people engage with their outreach workers and how credible messengers use their own street background to make meaningful connections with high-risk young people.


In Progress


The purpose of this research is to help unpack the social, psychological, and contextual processes and factors that may lead to lifestyle and norm changes among high-risk young people who have been engaged in violence.


Using in-depth interviews with early “desisters” (40 CV participants, age 21-30) and focus groups with individuals with sustained desistance (12 CV outreach workers), this project will explore the following research questions:

  • How are high-risk young people and their mentors (outreach workers) impacted by the violent norms and culture in their communities?
  • How do participants’ sense of identity change during the mentoring process?
  • How do outreach workers make sense of their own “street” background in the context of mentoring young people at-risk for gun violence?


By taking a deep dive into the engagement and mentoring process between CV participants and outreach workers, this project will help justify and strengthen programming efforts to reduce street gun-violence and promote desistance using mentoring by credible messengers.

Investigator Bio

Peter Simonsson, PhD, MSW, LCSW, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Urban Bioethics at Temple University. He currently works with CV outreach-workers and studies the role of peer mentoring to promote desistance. Prior to his academic career, Peter worked as a social worker in Philadelphia and Sweden for more than 10 years. In this role, Peter served communities impacted by interpersonal violence, primarily sexual abuse and homicide.

Grant Amount
Award Type
Temple University
Peter Simonsson, postdoctoral fellow, Center for Urban Bioethics at Temple University
Expected Completion Date
June 2022
Focus Areas
Urban Gun Violence
Intervention Research