One of the reasons why many people join a gang is feeling deindividualized thus no sense of individuality. Loss of individuality lessens the sense of responsibility and accountability and this affects the behavior of an individual (Hitchcock, 2008). Since a person who is in a gang feels less accountable, they are more likely to get engaged in deviant behavior. In fact, the size of the gang determines the rate and severity of individual deviance since the larger the gang, the more anonymous one feels and less the accountability feelings. As such, the severity and frequency of deviant and harmful behaviors among individuals of a large gang is higher (Skarin et al, 2010 ). Skarin and colleagues also note that being in a large gang decreases the level of self-awareness thus increasing loss of a sense of individuality. The loss of individuality and self-awareness then leads to an increase in deviance characteristic to the gang. Moreover, belonging to a group affects arousal with a large group membership decreasing arousal. Increased arousal increases the sense of loss of individuality and this increases delinquency.
Exposure to criminal and delinquent behaviors of a gang seems to desensitize an individual. With time, the reaction towards the initially unacceptable behaviors becomes tolerated and the individual indulges in gang-associated activities more often and freely. Skarin et al (2010) mentions that desensintization towards crime and violence among gang members makes the gang members accept the behaviors of the gang. It is therefore no wonder that members of a gang will find it less offensive to behave violently against civilians. After all, they have been exposed into such violations while in the group.
Belonging to a gang has been associated with increase in criminal behaviors. Criminal activities have been demonstrated to be higher with individuals who are members of a gang as opposed to non-gang members. In addition, gang members initiate criminal activities at quite a tender age. Pinizzotto, Davis and Miller (2007) highlight that there are gang members who begin criminal activities even at the age of nine years. Most important is that involvement in criminal activities tends to increase as one stays longer into a gang. Some of the criminal activities which gang members will be involved in include murder, armed robberies, burglaries as well as drug crimes. Escape from detention centers is also common amongst persons who are members in certain gangs than non-gang detainees.
A myriad of delinquent behaviors have been observed and linked to being a member of a gang especially among the youths. Thomas, Holzer and Wall, (2003) studied delinquency amongst 66 youths in Galveston, Texas to find the relationship between delinquency and youth gang membership. It was identified that most of the delinquents were either currently in a gang, were members of a gang in the past or they had friends or a family members who were gang members. Several behavior problems were noted among the subjects with two of the five females in the study reporting being involved in a gang fight. Those who were currently gang members portrayed the most severe and frequent antisocial behaviors. For instance, most of them were more aggressive and externalizing compared to those who were in gangs in the past or who had never been gang members. Current gang members also showed poor communication and had a lower number of good peers. The number of offenses such as larceny, serious assault and public disorder among other offenses were also higher among youths who were currently in a gang compared to those who had never been members of a gang.