Gang Membership: Risk Factors for Joining and Effects on Offending Trajectories

Gang Membership: Risk Factors for Joining and Effects on Offending Trajectories

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Risk factors for gang membership have been identified at five major levels: individual, family, school, peers and community (Howell & Egley, 2005). For example, at the individual level early onset of delinquency and antisocial behavior among pre-adolescents could be an indication of future criminality (Moffitt, 1993). Risk factors within peer association can have an effect on whether an adolescent becomes a member of a gang. These peers may provide antisocial views, aggressive influences and possibly induce delinquent behavior if not previously present. Lastly, community environment has an effect on adolescents, especially in high-crime areas where drugs, violence associated with weapons and disorganization are prominent (Howell & Egley, 2005). The fearfulness of the surroundings has produced an increase of gang membership where there is no social control. Furthermore, early sexual activity, drug and alcohol usage are also attributed to risk of gang membership (Howell & Egley, 2005). Family factors such as poor parenting skills, lack of supervision and poverty can produce further negative emotions and assist in the development of delinquent tendencies (Eitle, Gunkel & Van Gundy, 2004). Within school settings, adolescent’s lack of attention or commitment to completion of education can be attributed to gang membership. Many members drop out of school and therefore lack the necessary education for future endeavors. Furthermore, “the weakening of conventional bonds (parental and school attachment) elevates risk for antisocial influences (delinquent peer association), the internalization of antisocial values and such precocious behaviors as early dating” (Howell & Egley, 2005, p. 337). As such, precocious transitions can cause “disorde...


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