Youth has been made available for culturally-specific services to

Youth gang
involvement is an urgent issue, while funding has been made available for
culturally-specific services to some communities. Research has indeed found a
community with a high level of gang involvement risk factors present for its
youth. The existence of gangs for various reasons has been a reality for
decades in different countries. However the rise in streets gangs among the
youth is in low-income communities and the severity of the crimes in which they
are involved has become a significant issue for not only the communities where
such issues are occurring, but also for the entire nations. While there are
numerous reasons that could be explain. Why adolescents join gangs, a major
factor was a family problems which they are lack of care to their homes. Lack of
love, nurturing and support of children and adolescents can cause social
development and attachment problems because these individuals will grow up without
knowing how to have successful relationships with other individuals.

 The prevalence of gangs in the United States
is a deep-rooted phenomenon in our history. Gang violence occurs multiple times
a day, in various forms of action. Due to the informal and exclusive nature of
gangs, it can be difficult pinpoint exactly when gangs began to form research
regarding gangs in Middle America suggest that gangs like activity has been occurring
as early as the ancient Egyptians, when bands of robbers would attack travelling
merchants along caravan routes (Allender, 2001).

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According to
Adamson’s (2000), writes “gangs allied themselves in with social and political
clubs and often took direction from political bosses, who depended on them to
mobilize the vote and protect polling places on election days; membership in a
youth gang could lead to a career in local politics” (p.275). in current gang
culture, there is not as much discussion surrounding career development as a
reason for joining a gang unit. On the contrary, most gang-involved youth are prepared
for a life surrounding jail, hospitalization, and death. White gangs at this
time “enjoyed a measure of support from the adult population”(Adamson,2000,p.274).
“Low income family, disrupted
family, low parental attachment, and low parental supervision are risk factors
leading to gang membership” (Smith & Bradshaw 2005, p6), whilst
“Antisocial tendencies in families and peers, failure to perform well in
school and early initiation of individual behaviours” (SSDP 2001, p3) have
also been mooted, suggesting family is an important risk factor in involvement
and desistance from gangs. It was suggested by Thornberry that
“Adolescents whose parents have not graduated from high school are more
apt to become gang members” (Thornberry 2003, p89). Research conducted around young males
has shown increased family responsibility elicits desistance from criminal
activity and gangs. In the case of fatherhood, it was “credited for not
only changing their lives, but, literally, saving their lives” (Moloney et
al 2009, p312). Whilst War reported “similar findings regarding the
relationship between marriage…and desistance” (War 1998, cited in  Moloney et al 2009, p320).

transition from gang member to father would provide a positive label in place
of a negative one, whilst gaining employment to support the child would further
increase the likelihood of desistance from gang activity. This provides
evidence that suggests that strengthening family ties can encourage desistance
from gangs. 

All of the
above themes reflect important risk factors outlined in previous research and
theory and will be examined throughout the research. They are salient to the
semi-structured interview that will be undertaken and this will be reflected in
the questions. The aim of the study is to investigate which factors (congruent
with the above themes) are most important in young people desisting from gangs.
Suggestions can then be formulated regarding effective interventions.

There is a
great deal to be studied and learned about the predictive factors that lead to
gang involvement and the possible interventions that could be taken to address
this issue. This is a densely researched topic where much of the research
focuses on the risk factors that occur with adolescents, such as: substance abuse,
criminal activity, and relationships with family members and parents. There is
also a great deal of research on whether specific types of relationships with
adults, such as parents and school personnel protect adolescents from substance
abuse, gang involvement, and other threat to physical safety. A bulk of the
research also focuses on the individual, family, peer, school, and community
that may affect the adolescent (Esebensen, Peterson, Taylor, & Freng,

According to
the literature, there is not much that has been studied regarding the effects
of preventive and intervening methods that are currently utilized by schools,
juvenile detention centers and agencies dealing with at risk youth and if the
current interventions are successful. There is also a gap in the research that
focuses on the gender differences among predictive factors of adolescent gang
membership. It is known that gang involvement is more prevalent among males but
it is also known that that it still occurs heavily in 11 females and there is
little research on the predictive factors that are specific for females and how
they might be different than for males. Most of the research regarding
predictive factors of adolescent gang involvement is centered and focused
around young boys (Esbensen et al., 2009).

 The Eurogang definition follows the notion
that a gang is: “Any durable, street-oriented youth group whose
involvement in illegal activity is part of their group identity” (Eurogang
2006, p1), and is the definition of a gang that is understood by the research
in question. It is important to: “Accurately state the gang problem with
the best definition for the research question” (Esbensen et al 2001, p106)
in order to 0ffending for friendships, money, self-esteem and credibility are
key for struggling youths in gaining social capital. Those whose families are
“maimed by death, illness, separation and transience, and…felt unloved or
uncared for as a result” (Barry 2007, p27) are those most likely to commit
crime in order to gain social capital. Although Bourdieu outlined reasoning for
general participation and desistance in criminal activity, his concept of
social capital falls short in explaining why young people join and leave gang
confusion surrounding definitional issues and to marry the research to the
research question effectively.

The importance of education in a youth’s
progression to adulthood is significant, as findings from Thornberry discovered
71.5% of ‘stable gang members’ had dropped out of secondary education compared
to 33.6% of non-gang members (Thornberry 2003, p169), whilst it was also found
that: “Those youths who went smoothly from secondary school to further
education had the lowest mean levels of delinquent behaviour, and those with
problems during subsequent schooling were more involved in offending”
(Weerman 2010, p14). The
above research proposes a link between gang participation and a lack of
employment prospects, however all research thus far has concentrated on legal
jobs, ignoring illegal methods of financial gain. Recent research conducted by
Levitt & Venkatesh (2000, cited in Seals 2009) has suggested that illegal
means such as selling drugs have become some gang member’s source of steady
employment: “…the average wage…for gang members is just above that of the
legal market” (Seals 2009, p410), and even though the dangers are
prominent: “There is an average annual mortality rate of seven percent
for gang members” (Seals 2009, p410). 


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