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Factors That Lead Youth To Join Gangs Essay

Youth violence in American society has escalated in an alarming rate. Violence in schools, spree killings, and risk taking behavior seem to have become more commonplace than a decade ago. Most social scientists have pointed out that youth violence is directly related to later criminal behavior, such that a child who has been exposed to violence early in life would seek violence or become involved in criminal activities.

One of the most alarming social groups that perpetuate violence is street gangs, and the youth are generally drawn into these gangs. Gangs had existed since societies were formed and social norms and expectations were required of all members of society. Gangs were first formed as a social group espousing brotherhood and friendship, however, gangs evolved to become anti-social groups involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, selling and manufacturing, murder, assault, and riots. Since most gangs recruit adolescent members, it is important to understand what and why adolescents join gangs. This paper seeks to examine the factors that influence the youth’s decision to join gangs.

Background of the Study

The marked increase in youth violence and delinquency was observed two decades ago, at which point membership in gangs had also increased. Youth gangs were prevalent in large urban cities, but at its peak, it made its way even to smaller cities and the more rural areas across the country. Researchers had found a link between the rises of youth gangs to youth violence because gang members have access to guns and other weapons as compared to delinquents.

Another factor considered in the rise of gangs and violence is the increase in drug trade in the area or locality, it is expected that those who deal illegal drugs have guns, weapons, and have more tendency to commit violence. At present, the number of youth gangs in American society have continued to rise and gain more members.

Youth gangs had existed even before American society had developed to what it is now, previously, youth gangs were organized in order to serve some social purpose, but with more tendencies for vandalism, fighting with other gangs and establishing their territories. Gangs had now become the epitome of what is anti-social behavior, thus, gangs are viewed as troublemakers, violent, illegal, unscrupulous, to be feared and woe to the parent who have lost a child to gangs.

Many studies had been conducted to explore and understand the dynamics of gangs and gang membership, most had been able to identify the factors associated with gang membership and how gang members behave as well as their organizational structure. One thing is for sure, gangs are anything but simple, gangs have a complex organizational structure, and studying gangs have not been conclusive to date.

Gangs had been difficult to study and understand especially that more people and even the youth know that gangs are negatively perceived in society and that it can be dangerous to join gangs. The difficulty lies in the lack of consensus among researchers and the public as to what is a gang and how it is different from other social groups.

Loosely defined, youth gangs is an organization with a set of leaders and members that are engaged in criminal acts, on the other hand, motorcycle gangs, prison gangs and hate gangs are more hard core, have more structure and hierarchy and are different from youth gangs. Moreover, gangs are more likely to be composed of males rather than females, but there has been a marked increase in the number of female gangs and female members.

The relationship between membership in youth gangs and later criminal behavior had been espoused by a number of researchers and studies. Thus, it would follow that gang membership may predict violent behavior and criminal behavior. At this point, understanding why adolescents want to join youth gangs would help police, parents, schools and the public to make better decisions and provide programs that would keep the youth from joining gangs. This study hopes to explore and understand the factors that influence the youth’s decision to become a member of a youth gang.

Problem Statement

This study seeks to explore and understand the factors that contribute to the adolescent’s desire to join a gang. It is a reality that being a member of a youth gang is risky and disadvantageous in the sense that one is more likely to engage in criminal behavior, more likely to be involved in illegal activities and more likely to be caught and imprisoned. Nevertheless, youth gangs still enjoy the popularity and social status that they have in our society. More and more teenagers become gang members wherein they learn anti-social behaviors that only place them at risk.

Due to the presence of youth gangs and the increasing membership of the said gangs, there has been a marked increase in violent crimes and criminal acts in almost all cities in the country. This social problem have contributed to the increase in the number of convicted juvenile delinquents, the increase in high school drop out rates and even the violence that occurs in our schools.

If the youth focus only on what is essential, and that is to go to school, learn the skills that would help them become productive members of society and to serve as examples for the younger generation, then our society would be in a better position than it is now. If the youth today stay away from gangs, ultimately, gangs would die and end its existence because there are no members to sustain it.

By studying the factors that lead teenagers to join gangs, we would be in a better position to provide programs and information that would keep them from joining gangs; hence, we would have a better society, a more positive, creative, and promising youth and less crimes, delinquency and violence.

This study specifically aims to answer the research question “What factors lead the youth to seek membership in gangs?” In order to answer the main research question, the study also seeks to determine the following:

Who is the typical gang member? What are his/her personal characteristics, educational attainment, and interests?
When and how does a person become a gang member?
What factors predispose the youth to join gangs?
What factors influence the youth to join gangs?
Purpose and Objectives of the Study

This study seeks to explore and determine the factors that lead the youth to join gangs. At the outset, this study is not one-dimensional; it takes into account that there could be a myriad of factors that engage the youth to become gang members. Thus, this study was designed to provide answers to the following questions:

Who is the typical gang member? What are his/her personal characteristics, educational attainment, and interests?

When and how does a person become a gang member?

What factors predispose the youth to join gangs?

What factors influence the youth to join gangs?

Just as some people are drawn to gangs, there are also those who do not want to become a member of any gang, thus in order to sufficiently answer the main research question, it is also important that the personal characteristics of the gang member should be examined. By knowing the personal characteristics, educational attainment and interest of the gang members, we would be able to identify who among the youth are drawn to gangs and thus, we could provide interventions or prevention strategies targeted at the said persons to keep them from joining gangs.

Knowing what goes on in gangs and how individuals are recruited and the process in which members are accepted into gangs will provide answers to the question of what is in gangs that make them attractive to the youth of today. Understanding what attracts them to join gangs also enables us to provide a more specific intervention strategy or campaign that would help individuals become prey to gangs.

The term predispose means the propensity or likelihood of joining gangs, in this question, it is desired that the family set-up, academic performance, social skills and needs of the youth are examined and whether this contributes to the decision to join groups. This question can be answered by individuals who have not yet officially joined any gang but desires to become part of a gang, as such we would be able to identify what mitigating factors increase the likelihood of joining gangs.

The last question is designed to identify the factors that lead the youth to join gangs. As such, the individuals are asked to specify the factors whether it be personal social, educational, economic or psychological that have influenced their decision to join gangs. This question can be adequately answered by individuals who are already gang members.


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