Gang activity and gang violence is a growing concern in the United States today. It is estimated that there are approximately 760,000 gang members and over 24,000 active gangs in various jurisdictions within the United States (World Vision, 2011). It is also estimated that 155 children are arrested for his or her participation in violent crimes every year and that most of this violence is directly related to gangs and gang activity (World Vision, 2011). In order to address this growing epidemic, those working in the field of criminal justice have turned to existing sociological theories. One theory that may be instrumental in addressing the problems associated with gang violence and gang activity in today’s society is the Subculture of Violence Theory by Marvin Wolfgang. Not only could this theory provide individuals in criminal justice and the community with the rationale behind gang violence and gang activity, it will also assist them in creating strategies to address this growing epidemic.
Subculture of Violence Theory
In the 1960’s, Marvin Wolfgang and his esteemed colleague Franco Ferracuti formulated the Subculture of Violence Theory (Wolfgang & Silverman, 2002). Based on sociological and criminology traditions, this theory posited that individuals that grow-up in and/or that are exposed to a subculture that approves of and welcomes violence will be at increased risk for participating in violent acts and possessing violent behaviors (Wolfgang & Silverman, 2002). Specifically, Wolfgang & Ferracuti (1967) state that “Like all human behavior, homicide and other violent assaultive crimes must be viewed in terms in the cultural context from which they spring” (...
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..., it has been concluded that the Subculture of Violence Theory could be instrumental in addressing the gang issues that plague communities and criminal justice professionals in today’s society. In addition to providing rationale behind the occurrence, this theory will assist in the process of strategy creation.
Siegel, L. (2009). Criminology. Belmont, CA: Thomas Higher Education.
Wolfgang, M. & Ferracuti, F. (1967). The Subculture of Violence: Towards an integrated theory in criminology. London: Tavistock Publications.
Wolfgang, M. & Silverman, R. (2002). Crime and Justice at the Millennium: Essays in honor of Marvin E. Wolfgang. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
World Vision. (2011). Preventing Youth Violence. Retrieved from http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/globalissues-america-youth-violence-prevention/.
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