What are the major risk factors for gang membership?
According to the National
Gang Center, risk factors that predispose many youths to gang membership
are also linked to a variety of adolescent problem behaviors, including serious
violence and delinquency. The major risk factor domains are individual characteristics,
family conditions, school experiences and performance, peer group influences, and
the community context. Risk factors predictive of gang membership include prior
and/or early involvement in delinquency, especially violence and alcohol/drug use;
poor family management and problematic parent-child relations; low school attachment
and achievement and negative labeling by teachers; association with aggressive peers
and peers who engage in delinquency; and neighborhoods in which large numbers of
youth are in trouble and in which drugs and firearms are readily available (Howell
and Egley, 2005; see also Esbensen, 2000; Hill,
Lui, and Hawkins, 2001; Thornberry, 1998; Wyrick
and Howell, 2004). The accumulation of risk factors greatly increases
the likelihood of gang involvement, just as it does for other problem behaviors.
The presence of risk factors in multiple risk-factor domains appears to increase
the likelihood of gang involvement even more ( Thornberry et al., 2003).
A complete enumeration of risk factors for juvenile delinquency and gang involvement
and data indicators can be accessed at the National Gang Center Web site (http://www.iir.com/nygc/tool/).
Esbensen, F. A. 2000. Preventing Adolescent Gang Involvement.
Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (Adobe PDF)
Howell, J. C., and Egley, A., Jr. 2005. "Moving Risk
Factors Into Developmental Theories of Gang Membership." Youth Violence and Juvenile
Justice, 3(4), 334-354.
Hill, K. G., Lui, C., and Hawkins, J. D. 2001. Early
Precursors of Gang Membership: A Study of Seattle Youth. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Thornberry, T. P. 1998. "Membership in Youth Gangs and
Involvement in Serious and Violent Offending." In R. Loeber and D. P. Farrington
(Eds.), Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions,
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Wyrick, P. A., and Howell, J. C. (2004). "Strategic Risk-Based
Response to Youth Gangs," Juvenile Justice, 10(1), 20-29. ( Adobe PDF)
Thornberry, T. P., Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., Smith,
C. A., and Tobin, K. 2003. Gangs and Delinquency in Developmental Perspective, New
York, NY: Cambridge University Press.