Youth gangs in America

Peers are often blamed for delinquency and substance abuse, but in reality the single most consistent characteristic of delinquents is lack of support and socialization by their families (Bachman, 1970). Antagonistic relationships between parents are often found to exist in families with antisocial children (Rutter, 1971). When children do not have their needs met in their families, they often turn to their peers. Adolescents become delinquent because they are socialized into it, particularly by peers (Covington, 1982).

This paper looks into the evolvement of youth gangs in America, why the youth join gangs and the intervention methods used. A gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in unlawful or criminal activity (Jackson & McBride, 1988, p. 20). Gangs are of concern not only because of their antisocial activities, but also because of their increase (Goldstein, 199). These gangs are usually male, though there are female gangs. Gang members identify themselves names such as via names, clothes, female signs. Gang members identify themselves via graffiti.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the problem of gangs is spreading through society like a plague. Daily news stories depict the tragedy of gang violence. Gangs have a certain kind of appeal. Social change, microsystems (family, school, community) under stress and consequent lack of support for children tend to be associated with an increase in delinquency rates (National Research Council, 1993). Many young people lack positive adult role models. The gap between the consumerism perpetuated by the media and reality may entice young people to turn to delinquency.

Personality factors may contribute to the reasons some adolescents become delinquents. It is known that those who become delinquent are more likely to be defiant, ambivalent to authority, resentful, hostile, impulsive and lacking in self-control (Serok & Blu, 1982). Those who get poor grades in school have been reported for classroom misconduct and have trouble getting along with other children and teachers have been shown to possess a greater tendency to become delinquents (Polk & Schafer, 1972).

Therefore, the peer group may be the setting in which preexisting antisocial behavior due to family factors, social change, personality characteristics, or being out of synch with the school is reinforced (Goldstein, 1991). Deviance is a matter of social definition – that it exists in the eye of the beholder and is not absolute – is clearly illustrated in the case of inner-city gangs. The term inner-city gang strikes fear in the minds of most middle class Americans.

Gangs to them are by definition lawless and deviant, perpetrators of often brutal acts of violence against rival gangs and others who are targets of their hate. There are parts of virtually every major city in the United States where middle-class citizens dare not walk for fear of being attack by gangs. And yet, on the basis of a ten year study of gangs in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, Martin Sanchez Jankowski (1991) argues that gangs are not always considered deviant in their own social worlds.

In the poor, minority neighborhoods in which gangs exist, they are often viewed as normal aspects of everyday life. Social Definitions of Deviance - The Case of Inner-City Gangs Young men in these communities join gangs because to do so makes sense. it is a rational way of getting a larger share of the things they want in an environment of chronic scarcity and deprivation. Young men in inner cities want many of  the same things that other Americans do: money respect, and a sense of security. But their social situation makes these resources hard to obtain.

American society has created ghettos for members of ethnic minorities, and ghettos offer few legitimate ways to fulfill ordinary wants. Gangs try to circumvent this problem. They attempt to create an effective social organization to deal with the pressure and challenges of living in some of the most difficult circumstances in American society. Thus, gang membership is not  sign of social disorganization, an absence of values, or a psychological defect. It is instead an effort to achieve widely desired goals. ( Covington, 1982).