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Juvenile and Youth Gangs - Gangs And Social Institutions

family lives membership children

It is important to remember that all but the most hard-core gang members lead a considerable portion of their lives outside the gang. As is the case for most adolescents, institutions such as family and school play important roles in their lives. The work of Joan Moore and Diego Vigil in Los Angeles has pointed to the need for order and regulation in the lives of adolescents. Children naturally seek these conditions, and gangs have come to fulfill these needs for a growing number of youth. In many instances, the gang has begun to fulfill many of the functions formerly held by the family. Gangs provide social cohesion and status, two functions typically fulfilled by a functioning family. As gangs proliferate and last longer, gang members become parents and raise children who are at risk for gang membership.

Decker and Van Winkle interviewed gang members and members of their families about life in the gang. They found that while gang members often characterized the gang as family, few gang members thought the gang behaved like a family and regarded their natal family in much more positive terms. Family members often were unaware of gang membership, especially at the earliest stages of membership. Few family members approved of gang membership and gang members uniformly denied that they wanted their children to grow up to be gang members.

After the family, schools are the most powerful socializing agent in the lives of adolescents. Most children attend school every day and interact with students from a variety of backgrounds. They influence each other in a variety of ways, both positively and negatively. Schools have an important impact on the lives of gang and nongang members, and provide opportunities for nongang youths to learn about and become involved in gangs.

For a growing number of youths, the criminal justice system plays an increasingly important role in their lives. The United States has come to rely upon incarceration as a means to solve the crime problem, and as it does so, contacts between gang members and agents of the criminal justice system increase. There is growing evidence that prison propels many young men who formerly were not gang members toward gang membership. And imprisonment strengthens the ties between many gang members and their gang, as the gang is one of the remaining sources of identification open to incarcerated members. Prison plays an increasingly important role in the lives of gang members.

Juvenile and Youth Gangs - Responding To Gang-related Crime And Delinquency [next] [back] Juvenile and Youth Gangs - Gang Involvement, Gender, And Ethnicity

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about 8 years ago

Thanks for the information. I am a sociology student, I am doing my research on youth gang violence. I'd like to quote some of the information, but I don't know the author's name. Could you please send me some info. My paper is due tomorrow night. Thank you so much!