Why do People Join Gangs?

Social and developmental psychologists are interested in why people join gangs. Understanding why is the key to developing programs to discourage gang membership and suppress gang activity. The typical gang member had many of these risk factors in childhood:

between the ages of about 5 and 10 years started showing disrespect for parents and teachers and refusing to obey rules, getting angry easily, and blaming others for their mistakes.

between the ages of about 10 and 15 years displaying disregard for others by being physically cruel, committing crimes, refusing to attend school, refusing to obey authority figures, and running way from home.

Children who engage in these behaviors usually do poorly in school and are bullies. Other children and teachers reject them and the bullies join together to form gangs, or are recruited to be gang members. Joining a gang fulfills a basic human need to belong to a group. Many gang members are from single-parent homes, many not even living with either biological parent. Most gang members live in communities where gangs are rampant. So joining a gang gives them a circle of friends, identifies them with power in the community, and often is the family that they don't have. The thing that makes gang membership so enticing also makes it the most dangerous. Nothing is more sacred than loyalty to the gang and gang honor. Retribution for disloyalty or disobeying a leader's order is usually swift and certain death. On the other hand, gang membership can provide protection, respect, and a sense of acceptance and belonging that members never felt at home or in the community. Further, if the gang is involved in drug trafficking, gang membership provides "employment" and income.

Do gang members commit more crimes?