Based on a recent literature review on gang formation and promising and effective gang-prevention programs, this bulletin presents research on why youth join gangs and how a community can develop gang-prevention and intervention services.
Research shows that youth join gangs for protection, excitement, respect, money, or because a friend is in a gang. Youth are at higher risk of joining a gang if they engage in delinquent behaviors, are aggressive or violent, have multiple transitions in caretakers, have problems at school, associate with other gang-involved youth, or live in communities where they feel threatened and where a high percentage of youth engage in problem behavior. Recent research suggests three strategies for early intervention with pre-delinquents and delinquents. The first strategy is to intervene at the individual level with at-risk children, particularly disruptive children. The second strategy is to intervene with at-risk families, and the third strategy focuses on the development of school-based and community-based structures and activities that provide opportunities for youth to develop positive behaviors. This bulletin provides examples of effective and promising gang-related prevention programs that nine Federal agencies identified in systematic reviews beginning in 2005 (Howell, 2009). The bulletin advises that before selecting any of these programs for implementation, communities and neighborhoods that have gangs should conduct a comprehensive assessment that identifies elevated risk factors for gangs and how gangs affect the local community. 121 references
Date Published: December 1, 2010