Youth ganginvolvement is an urgent issue, while funding has been made available forculturally-specific services to some communities. Research has indeed found acommunity with a high level of gang involvement risk factors present for itsyouth. The existence of gangs for various reasons has been a reality fordecades in different countries. However the rise in streets gangs among theyouth is in low-income communities and the severity of the crimes in which theyare involved has become a significant issue for not only the communities wheresuch issues are occurring, but also for the entire nations. While there arenumerous reasons that could be explain. Why adolescents join gangs, a majorfactor was a family problems which they are lack of care to their homes. Lack oflove, nurturing and support of children and adolescents can cause socialdevelopment and attachment problems because these individuals will grow up withoutknowing how to have successful relationships with other individuals. The prevalence of gangs in the United Statesis a deep-rooted phenomenon in our history.
Gang violence occurs multiple timesa day, in various forms of action. Due to the informal and exclusive nature ofgangs, it can be difficult pinpoint exactly when gangs began to form researchregarding gangs in Middle America suggest that gangs like activity has been occurringas early as the ancient Egyptians, when bands of robbers would attack travellingmerchants along caravan routes (Allender, 2001). According toAdamson’s (2000), writes “gangs allied themselves in with social and politicalclubs and often took direction from political bosses, who depended on them tomobilize the vote and protect polling places on election days; membership in ayouth gang could lead to a career in local politics” (p.275).
in current gangculture, there is not as much discussion surrounding career development as areason for joining a gang unit. On the contrary, most gang-involved youth are preparedfor a life surrounding jail, hospitalization, and death. White gangs at thistime “enjoyed a measure of support from the adult population”(Adamson,2000,p.
274).”Low income family, disruptedfamily, low parental attachment, and low parental supervision are risk factorsleading to gang membership” (Smith & Bradshaw 2005, p6), whilst”Antisocial tendencies in families and peers, failure to perform well inschool and early initiation of individual behaviours” (SSDP 2001, p3) havealso been mooted, suggesting family is an important risk factor in involvementand desistance from gangs. It was suggested by Thornberry that”Adolescents whose parents have not graduated from high school are moreapt to become gang members” (Thornberry 2003, p89).
Research conducted around young maleshas shown increased family responsibility elicits desistance from criminalactivity and gangs. In the case of fatherhood, it was “credited for notonly changing their lives, but, literally, saving their lives” (Moloney etal 2009, p312). Whilst War reported “similar findings regarding therelationship between marriage…and desistance” (War 1998, cited in Moloney et al 2009, p320). Thetransition from gang member to father would provide a positive label in placeof a negative one, whilst gaining employment to support the child would furtherincrease the likelihood of desistance from gang activity. This providesevidence that suggests that strengthening family ties can encourage desistancefrom gangs. All of theabove themes reflect important risk factors outlined in previous research andtheory and will be examined throughout the research. They are salient to thesemi-structured interview that will be undertaken and this will be reflected inthe questions.
The aim of the study is to investigate which factors (congruentwith the above themes) are most important in young people desisting from gangs.Suggestions can then be formulated regarding effective interventions.There is agreat deal to be studied and learned about the predictive factors that lead togang involvement and the possible interventions that could be taken to addressthis issue. This is a densely researched topic where much of the researchfocuses on the risk factors that occur with adolescents, such as: substance abuse,criminal activity, and relationships with family members and parents. There isalso a great deal of research on whether specific types of relationships withadults, such as parents and school personnel protect adolescents from substanceabuse, gang involvement, and other threat to physical safety. A bulk of theresearch also focuses on the individual, family, peer, school, and communitythat may affect the adolescent (Esebensen, Peterson, Taylor, & Freng,2009). According tothe literature, there is not much that has been studied regarding the effectsof preventive and intervening methods that are currently utilized by schools,juvenile detention centers and agencies dealing with at risk youth and if thecurrent interventions are successful. There is also a gap in the research thatfocuses on the gender differences among predictive factors of adolescent gangmembership.
It is known that gang involvement is more prevalent among males butit is also known that that it still occurs heavily in 11 females and there islittle research on the predictive factors that are specific for females and howthey might be different than for males. Most of the research regardingpredictive factors of adolescent gang involvement is centered and focusedaround young boys (Esbensen et al., 2009). The Eurogang definition follows the notionthat a gang is: “Any durable, street-oriented youth group whoseinvolvement in illegal activity is part of their group identity” (Eurogang2006, p1), and is the definition of a gang that is understood by the researchin question. It is important to: “Accurately state the gang problem withthe best definition for the research question” (Esbensen et al 2001, p106)in order to 0ffending for friendships, money, self-esteem and credibility arekey for struggling youths in gaining social capital. Those whose families are”maimed by death, illness, separation and transience, and…felt unloved oruncared for as a result” (Barry 2007, p27) are those most likely to commitcrime in order to gain social capital.
Although Bourdieu outlined reasoning forgeneral participation and desistance in criminal activity, his concept ofsocial capital falls short in explaining why young people join and leave gangconfusion surrounding definitional issues and to marry the research to theresearch question effectively.The importance of education in a youth’sprogression to adulthood is significant, as findings from Thornberry discovered71.5% of ‘stable gang members’ had dropped out of secondary education comparedto 33.
6% of non-gang members (Thornberry 2003, p169), whilst it was also foundthat: “Those youths who went smoothly from secondary school to furthereducation had the lowest mean levels of delinquent behaviour, and those withproblems during subsequent schooling were more involved in offending”(Weerman 2010, p14). Theabove research proposes a link between gang participation and a lack ofemployment prospects, however all research thus far has concentrated on legaljobs, ignoring illegal methods of financial gain. Recent research conducted byLevitt & Venkatesh (2000, cited in Seals 2009) has suggested that illegalmeans such as selling drugs have become some gang member’s source of steadyemployment: “…the average wage…for gang members is just above that of thelegal market” (Seals 2009, p410), and even though the dangers areprominent: “There is an average annual mortality rate of seven percentfor gang members” (Seals 2009, p410).