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Juvenile and Youth Gangs - Gang Involvement, Gender, And Ethnicity

moore chicano surveys females

From the first national survey of gang problems, Walter Miller proposed a general estimate that 10 percent or less of the gang members in the cities that he studies were females. No recent studies of police data on gang members have approached the 10 percent estimate. Surveys of police officials regarding gangs, indicate that even fewer girls are gang members than surveys show, with some estimates as low as 4 percent of all gang members estimated to be females. This set of findings has been challenged recently by school-based surveys of students. These surveys indicate that the number of females who are gang members is growing, and that they may comprise 40 percent of all gang members. In all likelihood, the difference between these two estimates reflect differences in methodology. Police statistics, gang and nongang, are more likely to represent more serious crimes and to focus on males. Surveys, almost always initiated in school settings, are more likely to capture information on less serious self-reported delinquency and usually include equal numbers of males and females. In addition to these factors, evidence has been reported by both Moore and Hagedorn that females tend to give up participation in gangs at an earlier age than males.

Research studies of Chicano gangs in Los Angeles by Joan Moore and Diego Vigil have focused on the cultural elements of gang membership and violence. (Studies of Latino gangs in Chicago by Ruth Horowitz and Felix Padilla have similarly demonstrated the role of culture in gang dynamics.) Moore and Vigil placed primary importance on the role of Chicano culture and the position of Mexican-Americans in the cultural and institutional life of East Los Angeles to explain gang formation and activities. The detachment of Chicano culture from mainstream social and political life was the foundation of her explanation of gang life and criminal involvement. For Moore, Chicano gangs: (1) were territorially based; (2) had a strong age-graded structure resulting in klikas or cohort groups; and (3) made fighting central to gang life. According to Vigil, Chicano youth are in a position of multiple marginality, with the street providing an alternative and appealing socialization path, becoming a collective solution to the problem of identity. The works of Moore and Horowitz identified links between cultures of male machismo and gang violence. For all these researchers, drug involvement among gangs played a particular role in enhancing the connection between cultural issues and violence.

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