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General Reasons for Gang Membership

  • The primary age group of gang members ranges generally from 13-21 years. Interviews with gang members indicate that the reasons for joining a gang are seldom understood by the gang members themselves but can vary from brotherhood to self-preservation.

    Some of the more common reasons include the following:


    Gang members cannot achieve an identity in their larger community, so they gain it in the gang culture. They often visualize themselves as warriors against the outside world, protecting their neighborhood.


    Joining a gang in a community with several gangs offers considerable protection from violence and attack from rival gangs.


    Studies indicate that a tight family structure tends to be lacking in the homes of gang members. Gang activity offers that closeness, that sense of family that is often lacking in the home.


    Pressure to join a gang can become very dangerous. New members may be forced to join by threats, violent beatings, and initiations in order to increase gang membership

    No ethnic group or geographical location is excluded. Unlike gangs in the past, we are seeing mixed ethnic and socioeconomic groups making up gangs. There is an on-going struggle form territorial control and the lucrative drub market among gangs in our community. School personnel, parents, and community members need to be aware of these dynamics in their schools, homes, and in the community at large.

    Personal Reasons for Gang Membership

    A variety of personal reasons prompts young people to join gangs. These may include the following:

    the excitement of gang activity
  • the need to belong
  • peer pressure
  • attention
  • financial benefit
  • family tradition
  • a lack of understanding of the hazards involved

Students with poor self-concepts may also believe gang membership will increase their self-esteem. These young people seek to attain recognition for their activities. Gangs may supply that extra pat-on-the-back that they might not receive at home or school.

Parents need to be aware of what's going on in their child's life. If young people cannot communicate their concerns and problems to someone significant at home or at school, they could make a negative decision to join a gang, which would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Parental, neighborhood, and law enforcement involvement is the only way gang activity will be curbed.

Remember, this is your school community--not the gangs'!

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