Family Influence On Young Boys Joining Gangs

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The Effect of the Family Membership in a street gang has an extremely detrimental effect on the lives of the young males who join them. Gang members “engage in more violent crimes and have more police contact than non-gang members” (Craig et al. 54) and are also more likely to engage in binge drinking and the use and sale of other drugs (Hawkins, Hill and Lui 1). Gang members also have a negative impact on their communities because of their proclivity towards crime. There are a lot of factors that can push someone towards gang membership, but the extremely young age of many gang members asks us what role does the young boy’s family play in his path to gang membership? Most gangs form in impoverished communities, but even in populations with a high-risk for gang membership eight out of ten youths do not join gangs throughout adolescence (Klein and Maxson 31). This points to another cause for gang membership outside of poverty. A family structure that is deficient in some way is one of the factors that drive those two out of ten youths in high-risk areas towards gang membership. Participation in gangs is highest at fourteen or fifteen years of age (Klein and Maxson 41). This is an age where many children attempt to define their identity in some meaningful way. In the absence of a clearly defined family structure many young males turn to gangs as a replacement for that structure. In a study done on members of a Hispanic street gang in New York City called the Latin Kings many gang members reported “a lack of comprehensive authority that their parents exercised over them” (Barrios and Brotherton 216) as a significant cause of their decision to join the gang. The parents of these children do nothing to reign in their kids and will often define their children’s criminal activity as simply acting out in an attempt to deny their children are involved in gang activity

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