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What are the possible causes of ADD/ADHD behavior?


Will being ADOPTED make adolescence  harder for my child?


How can I deal with the ANGER

 in our family?


Is my teen's BEHAVIOR just normal teenage rebellion?


What do parents and teachers need to know about BULLYING?




How can I help my OVERWEIGHT



Help!  My teen is a RUNAWAY


My teen is cutting.  What do I need to know about  SELF-INJURY?


What is 'normal' teen SEXUAL BEHAVIOR and what is cause for concern?







Awareness, Prevention, Intervention


Organizations  -  More Information on Gangs

Gang Risk Factors  -  Protective Factors

Peer Influence  -  Teen Violence  -  Parenting Teens


Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Young people join gangs for a variety of reasons, some of which are the same reasons children join other pro-social groups such as 4-H and Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. 




Some of the reasons for joining a gang may include:

  • A search for love, structure, and discipline

  • A sense of belonging and commitment

  • The need for recognition and power

  • Companionship, training, excitement, and activities

  • A sense of self-worth and status

  • A place of acceptance

  • The need for physical safety and protection

  • A family tradition

Risk Factors for Joining a Gang

  • Racism When young people encounter both personal and institutional racism (i.e., systematic denial of privileges), the risks are increased.  When groups of people are denied access to power, privileges, and resources, they will often form their own anti-establishment group.

  • Poverty A sense of hopelessness can result from being unable to purchase wanted goods and services.  Young people living in poverty may find it difficult to meet basic physical and psychological needs which can lead to a lack of self-worth and pride.  One way to earn cash is to join a gang involved in the drug trade.

  • Lack of a support network:  Gang members often come from homes where they feel alienated or neglected. They may turn to gangs when their needs for love are not being met at home.  Risks increase when the community fails to provide sufficient youth programs or alternatives to violence.

  • Media influences:  Television, movies, radio, and music all have profound effects on youth development.  Before youth have established their own value systems and are able to make moral judgments, the media promotes drugs, sex, and violence as an acceptable lifestyle.

Protective Factors

  • Well-developed social and interpersonal skills

  • High sense of self-esteem, self-efficacy, and personal responsibility

  • Reflectivity, rather than impulsive thought and behavior

  • Internal locus of control (i.e., the belief of being able to influence environment in a positive manner)

  • Flexible coping strategies, well-developed problem-solving skills and intellectual abilities

Gang Prevention

Youth gang involvement is not a new phenomenon in the United States.  Gangs have been known to exist in our country since the 18th-century.  Philadelphia was trying to devise a way to deal with roaming youth disrupting the city in 1791.  According to the National School Safety Center, officials in New York City acknowledged having gang problems as early as 1825.  The gang problem is not likely to go away soon or to be eliminated easily. 


Here are a few gang-prevention strategies:

  • The family and the community are essential to the development of the child's social, emotional, and physical needs.  If the family is the source of love, guidance, and protection that youths seek, they are not forced to search for these basic needs from a gang.  The family and community share responsibility for teaching children the risk of drugs.

  • Strong education and training are directly related to a youth's positive development.  Young people who successfully participate in and complete education have greater opportunities to develop into reasonable adults.

  • Graffiti removal reduces the chance that crimes will be committed.  Since gangs use graffiti to mark their turf, advertise themselves, and claim credit for a crime, quick removal is essential.

  • Conflict resolution programs teach gangs how to deal better with conflicts and help eliminate gang intimidation tactics.

  • Recreational programs such as sports, music, drama, and community activities help build a sense of self-worth and self-respect in young people.  Youth involved in such activities are less likely to seek membership in a gang.


From Research Review: Gang Violence and Prevention by Mary H. Lees, M.A., Human Development Department; Mary Deen, M.A., Extension Youth Development Specialist; and Louise Parker, Ph.D., Extension Family Economics Specialist; Washington State University



Read All The Books



Boundaries with Teens:  When To Say Yes, How To Say No

by John Townsend



The Way of the Wild Heart:  A Map for the Masculine Journey

by John Eldredge





National Alliance of Gang Investigators' Associations ~ Cooperate professional organization dedicated to the promotion and coordination of national anti-gang strategies and composed of representatives from regional gang investigators associations representing over 15,000 gang investigators across the country, as well as federal agencies and other organizations involved in gang-related matters.


National Gang Center ~ The latest research about gangs; descriptions of evidence-based, anti-gang programs; and links to tools, databases, and other resources to assist in developing and implementing effective community-based gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies.


National Gang Crime Research Center ~ Carries out research on gangs and gang members,  disseminate information through publications and reports, and provide training and consulting services.



More Information on Gangs


2009 National Youth Gang Survey Highlights (pdf) ~ Since 1996, the National Gang Center, through the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS), has collected data annually from a large, representative sample of local law enforcement agencies to track the size and scope of the national gang problem. This fact sheet summarizes findings from the 2009 NYGS.


Gangs in Small Towns and Rural Counties (pdf) ~ Although research indicates that youth gang problems in small towns only occasionally rise to levels experienced in larger cities, the ongoing presence of a gang problem in smaller areas clearly poses a continued potential to escalate.  Most smaller communities that experience the emergence of youth gang problems see them dissipate rather rapidly — perhaps most likely due to the varying characteristics and oftentimes loose structure of youth gangs across the United States — while other communities experience the ongoing presence of gang problems.  If indeed there is an emerging gang presence in a small town or rural community, a step-by-step anti-gang action plan is presented.


Girls accept gun running and rape as price for joining violent male gangs ~ Girls are very much second-class citizens within the gangs but they see it as normal.


Gun Violence: Live By the Gun, Die By The Gun ~ Teens who have made it part of their lives talk honestly about how, why, and the often devastating consequences.


Hate on Display:  A Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos ~ Overview of symbols frequently used by hate or extremist groups or movements.


Menacing or Mimicking? Realities of Youth Gangs (pdf) ~ This article illuminates numerous gang myths and contrasts them with research-based realities. It concludes with implications and recommendations for community—including juvenile court — responses to gangs.


Wannabee:  Life and Death in a Small Town Gang ~ Gang murder in "Norman Rockwell" America? A  harrowing documentary about the gang-related murder/suicide that took the lives of four teenagers in the quiet community of Appleton, Wisconsin.


What Challenges are Boys Facing, and What Opportunities Exist to Address These Challenges? (pdf) ~ Research indicates that boys who have been exposed to family or neighborhood violence or spend time among aggressive peers are more likely to both engage in violent acts and to become victims of violence. Evidence shows that protective factors include having a negative attitude toward aggressive behavior, having positive friendships, having supportive and caring parents, having good problem solving and conflict resolution skills, living in neighborhoods where firearms are not readily available, being involved in structured activities, and not being involved in gangs.


Youth Gangs, Drugs, and Violence Connection (pdf) ~ This report considers issues such as gang migration, gang growth, female involvement with gangs, homicide, drugs and violence, and the need of communities and youth who live in the presence of gangs.




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