Why Youth Joins Gangs?
The number of youth joining Gangs is increasing day by day. The public is concerned about the involvement of youth in the gangs and also the violence associated with their activities is being increased. Being in a gang is highly related to the delinquent behavior. Youth joins gangs because they experience certain pulls pertaining to the attractiveness of the gangs like gang membership can enhance their prestige or status among friends, they can make money etc. Thus, youth personal advantage in gang membership. There can be numerous reasons for why youth join gangs like parental/family influences, poverty/socio-economic status, neighborhood influences, protection, fellowship, intimidation, identity, peer influences etc. In this paper, we will discuss why youth join gangs. We will discuss three major reasons Peer influences, poverty and neighborhood influences as the main factors that motivate youth to join gangs.
Researchers have indicated that youth joins gangs under peer influences. There are both perceived and tangible benefits for youth to be in peer groups- social and emotional support, prestige and status, protection, excitement, making money through illegal activities and youth friendship. They can escape from other aspects of their lives. Some youths find prosocial peers as the best way to escape from negative influences at their homes while others may find antisocial peers interesting despite having the positive home environment. When the youth is under peer group, they conform to the behavior of that group and enjoy various antisocial activities like alcohol, smoking, drug etc.
Youth in peer groups spend a lot of time together, they often develop their gang identity with their own symbol and stories and code of conduct. According to a research conducted to analyze the motivation for joining a group, it has been found that 70% of the youth join the gangs under peer influence, just to be with the people like them. Most common reason is to make friends (46.5%), to fill up empty time (33%) and to have a sense of belongingness (28%). So, youth is motivated to join gangs when they have friends who are members of the same group. There are group leaders who higher weaker people, initiate delinquent behavior and motivate others to join the gang.
Poverty is also one of the reasons for youth getting indulged in gangs formation or joining already existing gangs. Boys of lower-class communities suffer frustration because of their status, and also, they are unable to succeed by middle-class status and standards. Lack of resources to compete with middle-class fellows in schools leads them to develop their own delinquent subculture that produces negativism. They justify their aggression with these alternative values and form their own solitaire groups. Since Lower-class youth does not have access to legitimate opportunities and in some cases illegitimate options also, they join gangs to engage in a particular type of crimes. According to research, in poor and low-class communities, gangs are the feature of life.
According to Joe (1995), competitive struggle in minority communities leads to gangs’ violence. The limited resources are sought by all in low-class communities and hence the violence from the members of the gangs emerges. According to research, between the age group of 21 and 24, around half (47%) of the African-American males are registered into the police gang database in Los Angeles. In the United States, gang can be stated as the code word for race. Girls and boys growing up in the poor communities with limited resources turn to the gangs to satisfy their needs, enhance their status and to enjoy lavish and luxurious life by earning money through illegal means.
Across a wide range of neighborhood, is has been observed that socioeconomic disadvantage is very much related to the gang formation among youth and adolescent behavior. Social networks within neighborhood develop associational ties and friendship and kinship networks between various families and socialization processes. There may be conventional and criminally inclined residents in the neighborhood and social ties between them facilitate crime. Thus, in the absence local social control, youth is attracted towards violent peers and forms gang with them. They find violence very rewarding in the presence of violent peers.
On the other hand, youth residing in neighborhoods where social control is much higher, they find fewer opportunities to form peer groups and get attracted to new participants. The architecture of the inner-city neighborhood also results in isolation of low-class minority youth from middle-class role models and values and instead exposes them to unconventional values. Under, these situations they form gangs and enjoy violence. According to the research, it has been observed that neighborhood disadvantage increases the possibility of engaging in violence by youth by 10%.
Understanding the basic difference between why some youth join gangs and some do not is the key to effective prevention efforts. Youth joins gangs under peer Influence because of their interest, antisocial activities, friendship, belongingness etc. Boys and girls from minority communities are attracted to join gangs to fulfill their needs and enhance their status. The neighborhood also plays an important role in gang formation when the local social control on the youth is not that effective. It is important to enhance protective factors that can keep the youth out of gangs.
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