Why Do Youth Join Gangs?

Keywords: youth gang prevention, young gang membership, youth gangs peer pressure

“Why do teens join gangs?” This is a question many parents ask themselves.

There are several reasons why teens join gangs, but ranging from; to fit in or to feel accepted, come from a broken home, being rebellious, these are the most common.

Peer pressure is a major influence on some teen’s decision to join gangs.

Teenagers in the world today face more peer pressure than ever before. Gang involvement has been higher in the last ten years. While doing research on teens, I came across a website called Peer Pressure During Adolescence (www.mc.maricopa.eduept/dev/Fall99?peer_pressure/index.htlm).

In this reading it states; “Two major concerns about the influence of peer pressure are gang involvement and the use of alcohol and other drugs”. It also goes onto say that gangs provide a sense of safety not just belonging. The youth are searching for anyone who will listen, even if it means giving in to join a gang.

We as parents need to speak with our children and actually listen. The teens of today’s generation seem to b more aggressive and persuasive than ever before. We as parents may even feel intimidated by our own children. Can you just imagine how intimidated the children must feel when approached by a gang member?

According to the TUSD Department of School Safety, it states that the primary age of gang members ranges from 13-21years of age. It also indicated some common reasons teens join gangs, which listed as:

  • Identity
  • Gang members cannot achieve an identity in their larger community, so they gain culture. They often visualize themselves as warriors against the outside world, protecting their neighborhood.

  • Protection
  • Joining a gang in a community with several gangs offers considerable protection from violence and attack from rival gangs.

  • Fellowship
  • Studies indicate that a tight structure tends to be lacking in the homes of gang members. Gang activity offers that closeness, that sense of family that is often lacking in the home.

  • Intimidation
  • Pressure to join a gang can become very dangerous. New members may be forced to join by threats, violent beatings, and initiations in order to increase gang membership. (www.tusd.k12.az.us/contents/deparment/safty/general.htl)

    Another reason to be address for teens joining gangs is fellowship. Many would refer to this as a broken home. Maybe the parents got a divorce, or another family member raises the child. Fellowship for instance, as listed above “gang activity offers that closeness, that sense of family that is often lacking in the home.” This is actually something that parents/guardians can correct in their own household. If people would communicate with the youth there maybe less number of teens, joining gangs. Having a good communication with your children will not only be less likely to join gangs but the drug use and violence standard for teens could also be lowered.

    Another reason why some teens might join gangs would be to make fast money. There are several reports of gangs robbing people, banks, and other locations. Another thing would be the usage and selling of drugs. If a teen comes from an underprivileged home or even if he/she comes from an extremely wealthy home, the selling of drugs in a gang could bring them fast cash.

    There are still going to be reasons for the increase number of teens in gangs due to various situations. The excitement factor can be considered. Teens may feel a thrill in the rebellious acts that gangs perform. They may feel as if they are living in a movie or fantasy world when actually it is reality. While belonging or claiming a certain color that their enemies do not like, that can spark interest in a young youths eyes. To have a rush in the crimes gangs commit or just the whole lifestyle in general can capture some teen’s minds. There are several movies that portray “the cool kids” as rebellious teens. The “wanting to be cool” can lead to many troubling situation including joining a gang.

    It is time for all the reasons and excuses to be done away and have the youth pulled back to reality, in so do by, show them the after effects of the gang life style, and the other options they have in life. In my research, I found a website informing people of their decisions to live the gang lifestyle. The writer Rob Gallardo indicates, “One joins a gang for various reasons. However, choosing to continue to live out the gangster lifestyle always involves a series of choices. ….choices we make now always correlate to consequences immediately or just down the road.” (Operation No Gangs, www.operationnogangs.org) What Rob is saying is that there may be a lot of reasons for teens joining gangs ,the greater concern would be the consequences that could take place resulting in that reason .

    We need to step up and reach out to the youth of today. The youth will be the next president, vice president, or even a counselor for teens that join gangs. I have a stepson who had a good life growing up, or we thought he did. When he became a teenager, he went down the wrong path so to speak. He stole cars, robbed people, shot at peoples homes while people were inside. Let us just say he was not the same boy we knew. He spent all his teen years’ in and out juvenile facilities. He came out with several tattoos, and his vocabulary included gang slang. He claimed to be in the MS13 (one of the worst gangs in Texas). When he came out one time, my husband asked him why he was do all the stuff he was doing, his response was a very emotional one. He mentioned the fact that his mother and my husband were not together. My husband tried to explain everything to him. That was one indicator that the choice he made was for coming from a broken home. He now has a son and recently came out of the county jail for breaking probation. Now the choice he makes has a much worse consequence.

    If we were to interview all the former teen gang members, I am sure there will be several reasons for their choice to join a gang. Peer pressure, fitting in, and coming from a broken home will be the top answers that will be given. Lets try to eliminate these reasons for our youths sake and encourage a positive way of life for them.