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Gang Risk Factors

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It is well known in America that gangs are problematic. The Federal Bureau of Investigations estimates there are approximately 1.4 million gang members in the United States which includes prison gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and criminal street gangs. This statistic is probably grossly underestimated because of inconsistencies in reporting gangs and gang members from state to state. Even with those estimates, gangs are responsible for a large amount of crime in America. To avoid the growing street gang problem, we should focus our efforts on gang prevention at an early age. A number of researchers have gathered data on risk factors and precursors for juveniles joining street gangs. Those risk factors will be discussed as well as suggestions…show more content…
Participants were split equally both male and female. The researchers found gang members identified by the study had diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. They identified the age of 15 as being the peak age for joining a street gang. Hill, et al., grouped risk factors into five categories: neighborhood, family, school, peer group, and individual factors. They identified that no “single overriding factor” explains why youths join street gangs but as one can expect, the more risk factors the youth had, the more likely they were to join a street gang (2001). Neighborhood risk factors included: availability of marijuana, neighborhood youth in trouble, and low neighborhood attachment. Family risk factors included: family structure (one parent or one parent plus other adults), parental attitudes favoring violence, low bonding with parents, low household income, sibling antisocial behavior, and poor family management. School factors included: learning disabled, low academic achievement, low school attachment, low school commitment, and low academic aspirations. Peer group factors included: association with friends who engage in problem behaviors. Individual factors included: low religious service attendance, early marijuana use, early violence, antisocial beliefs, early drinking, externalizing behaviors, and poor refusal…show more content…
Their recommendation for the prevention of street gang proliferation is addressing all facets of youth’s lives including their neighborhood, family, school, peer group, and individual factors.
Cheryl Maxson’s Street Gangs Dr. Cheryl Maxson, an acclaimed street gang expert, wrote in Crime and Public Policy of four similar categories that may affect the likelihood of youths joining a street gang; individual, school, peer, and neighborhood factors. Her findings were similar to those found in the Seattle Study.
Dr. Maxson cites three individual-level factors as being the “most consistently supported predictors of gang membership.” Those factors are: youth who have recently experienced the stress of critical life events (serious injury or parental divorce), non-delinquent problem behaviors (risk-taking, impulsivity, and antisocial tendencies), and embracing delinquent beliefs (feeling that committing a crime is acceptable)
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