An individual’s behavior may be shaped by being a gang member in an indirect manner. This means that expectations coming from outside the gang may influence a person to behave as per what belonging to a gang implies. A gang member may perceive that others outside the gang are viewing them as bad or as per what the gang is involved in even while this is not so. This spurs the expectation of the individual as far as their interactions with other people in the society are concerned.
The individual ends up behaving violently or delinquently so as to fit into the society’s label (Vitaro, Brendgen & Tremblay, 2000). It is a common observation and a clue that one is in a gang member to see individuals change in not only their interactions with other people but also in their day to day lives. All these are influences of the gang labels and norms on individual behavior. Riley (2006) for instance cites the use of certain tattoos among members of a gang with different tattoos symbolizing different things in the culture of the group.
In addition, an individuals dressing may change to fit into the demands and expectations of the group. These changes are forms of non-verbal communication which have an influence on the behavior of an individual. When an individual joins any group, there is tendency to shift personal views from self to being part of a group. This implies that the self loses predominance and the group takes control. This happens since people are always working towards attaining a sense of social identity as well as achieving a positive self-image.
These pressures impact individual behaviors and one acquires the behaviors that are within the group or those that are associated with the group (Mansour, Marceau & Mongrain, 2006). This is the case with belonging to a gang. In search of the sense of self worth and positive self-image, an individual takes up the practices of the gang and does away with the self. As a member of a group, one is obliged to show commitment to the group members and activities.
This obligation may not necessarily come from group members but also from the self as one seeks approval and gets cushioned from disapproval by fellow members. In the process, individual behavior tends to conform to group expectations. Pinizzotto, Davis and Miller (2007) highlights some of the reasons why belonging to a gang changes an individual’s behavior and more so to a delinquent one. The interaction with other gang members leads to poor development in social behaviors, delay of gratification as well as poor control of aggression.
This is as opposed to other children who are in other social settings like schools and well-adjusted families where these deviations are checked. The interaction with fellow gang members does not allow appropriate social skills to develop as there are no appropriate correctional measures. On the other hand, a child who is in a well-adjusted family and social setting always receives correction whenever they seem to deviate from socially acceptable behavior. This makes them develop socially acceptable behaviors as opposed to persons who grow up in a gang.
Gang members on the other hand tend to acquire socially unacceptable behaviors since they do not have external regulators in their behaviors. In fact any one who is not within the gang membership is viewed as a threat to their safety. Pinizzotto, Davis and Miller (2007, p 1) indicate that a member of a gang will either “ignore, encourage, or recognize” the socially unacceptable behavior “as adaptive for their survival. ” It is therefore no wonder that gang members are remorseless and most of them will take pride in doing unlawful acts remorselessly such as cold-blood murder.