Sociology Term Paper Many aspects in society today have a large influence on gang membership. There are many different theories and perspectives that look into the aspects that influence membership and try to answer the question of why they do so. Sociologists such as Merton, Durkheim, Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin all have explanations and theories on gang delinquency. We will look at the various age, race, and sexes of the gang members. Also the different social classes and ethnic backgrounds that the members come from. Some of the societal aspects that we will be looking at will be the role that the family plays and the role of the community as well as the large role played by peers. We will talk about the individualistic reasons and the influence that area and neighborhood has on membership. Today the study of gangs is growing as the gang problem is becoming larger. Many Sociologists, Criminologists and Psychologists are trying to understand and propose some theories as to what makes people join gangs. We are going to look at and give some insight to some of the societal influences that cause gang membership. First we are going to look at the role that the family plays. Family The family is assumed to play a major role in a child s formative years.(Goldstein 1991:218) says, for example The family and community are essential to a child s moral, social, spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual development. The extent to which youngsters learn social roles, employ prosocial behaviors, internalize moral development and structure values is directly related to their interactions with family and community members. As a result of the general importance of families in shaping behavior, control theory indicates that the family factors exert a ...broad and deep influence...upon the likelihood of delinquent behavior (Goldstien, 1991:14). In the article Vulnerability to street gang membership, implications for practice ( Maxson, Whitlock and Klein 1998) they report their findings. In their study, they found that gang members reported that their family members were more likely to engage in deviant behavior, such as illegal drug use and criminal activity, and had more often been injured or killed in a fight. Gang youth more often reported guns in their homes, adults yelling at one another and parents striking during an argument. The parents of the non-gang youth were more likely to know all of their sons friends, and in their homes have higher levels of self esteem and parental involvement. In a study done by Braaten Antrim and Thompson 1998, they looked into the relationship between youth maltreatment and gang involvement. They found that when youth are beaten physically and molested sexually that their odds are four times greater of gang involvement than youth who did not experience maltreatment. Peers The influence of ones peers is one of the strongest influences involved in gang membership. Maxson, Whitlock and Klein 1998 reported that gang members reported more friends who more often resolved conflicts by threatening or yelling. Gang members were more likely to denigrate their friendship groups than non-gang members. Community Community involvement and neighborhood support of youth and anti-gang violence is important. Not only is community support important but the

neighborhood in which you live in is a large determining factor of gang membership. In Travis Hirchis social bond theory, it talks about the family and the community as support and a preventer of delinquency. He applied his theory to youth and their delinquency. This theory applies to those who don t commit crime and why they don t rather than why those that do commit crime do. His theory has four components: 1) Attachment-to community and to family and friends. 2) Commitment- to family and ones self 3) Involvement- with community 4) Belief- in societal norms and values Hirchi believed that if a person had all four components that they would not be involved in gangs or crime. Not only can the community help to prevent membership, but in some areas it can help to create it. In the 1920 s, Robert Park and Ernest Burgess came up with their Concentric zone theory . Their theory stated that crime and delinquency happens in The zone of transition otherwise known as The inner city . According to them, this is where delinquency starts, and even today, people look at and relate the inner city to gang problems. In their theory, the further away from the inner city you are, the less likely you are to become involved in gangs and crime. According to Cloward and Ohlins delinquency and opportunity theory, they contended that while lower class juveniles have different opportunities for achieving success through legitimate means, they also have differential opportunities for success through illegitimate means. The kind of gangs and delinquent responses that are generated depend, according to Cloward and Ohlin, upon the different opportunities available in the environment. Members The typical street gang member is primarily male and generally an ethnic or racial minority.( Maxson, Klein and Whitlock 1998) When we think of the typical gang member, we generally invision a male, usually white or black. According to Thrasher and Short 1973, women do form gangs, but very rarely. Thrasher and Short found that in their study of Chicago area gangs, women do not form gangs because they lack the gang instincts. In this same study, they found that the members were predominantly male, ages 10-24. In referring to race and nationality, 43 out of 880 gangs were wholly American, 63 were African American, 25 were mixed colored and white, 351 were mixed white nationalities, 396 were dominantly of a single nationality. The majority of the street gang members were generally from lower class families and lower class incomes. ( Maxson Klein and Whitlock 1998) found that gang members more often cited for reasons of joining, the need to belong to something, protection, excitement and the need for ones own territory. Also joining because of pressure from ones own friends. Here we have looked at some of the many aspects that have been shown to be sociological factors on the influence of gang membership. From my own experience of this topic, I feel that a large factor that drives people to gangs is the need to belong to something where people will love you and protect you unconditionally. I also feel that it mostly depends on the neighborhood that you live in, if it has a level of high, low or no gang activity. We have looked at some of the many theories on gang delinquency and looked at some of the other societal factors such as family, community and peer influences. By looking at some of these issues relating to membership, hopefully one day we will be able to give the help to youth that are in need of the support and love that will prevent them from leading this life of delinquency. Braaten-Antrim, R. Thompson K 1998 Youth amltreatment and gang involvement Journal of interpersonal violence (13)n3p328 (18) Bynum,J. Thompson, W. 1989 Juvenille Delinquency. A sociological approach. Emler, N. Reicher S 1995 Adolescence and delinquency Blackwell publishers, Oxford Klein, M 1995 The American street gang Oxford University press Klein, M. Maxson, C. Whitlock, M 1998 Vulnerability to street gang membership, Implications for practice Social Service Review v72n1p70(22) Knox, G 1994 An Introduction to Gangs Wyndham Hall Press Thrasher, F. Short, J. 1973 The Gang: Abridged Edition University of Chicago Press

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