Major risk factors that contribute to gang involvement


What leads people in California or other states to become members of organized gangs? Some say living in poverty or residing in certain areas has something to do with it. While that may be true to a point, there appear to be many other risk factors involved that contribute to gang participation.

Studies show you don't have to come from poverty-stricken areas to develop an interest in joining a gang; in fact, you might be from a relatively stable (even affluent) environment. Regardless of neighborhood, one or more of the following appear to be common among those who join gangs:

Lack of parental supervision

  • Few to no available employment opportunities
  • Academic failure
  • Negative peer pressure

These types of influences can obviously be present regardless of whether you live in a ghetto or suburb. Many psychologists, law enforcement agents, and juvenile defense representatives have expressed a need for better understanding of such risks over simply punishing any wrongdoing committed by a particular gang.

Sense of belonging to a family crucial

Perhaps you do not come from a home where dad goes to work and mom devotes herself to homemaking and raising the children and are seeking more attention and support from your home life. Still, you might know others whose households contain two full-time working parents, but little to no quality family time takes place. If any of these situations sound familiar to you, then you probably understand the reasons many youths give when asked why they have joined gangs:

  • Someone is willing to pay attention to them.
  • Gang leaders act as parental figures to replace an absentee mother or father at home.
  • Leaders and other members offer unconditional approval and support.
  • Being away from home helps them escape negative atmospheres.

You might relate to those who have said that joining a gang made them feel as though they were part of a family for the first time in their lives. It's not uncommon, however, for such seeming devotion to vanish if trouble arises. Past experiences have often involved threats of violence or other acts of malice when one or more members feel betrayed by another.

Other common reasons for joining gangs

In addition to a sense of belonging and family camaraderie, you might agree the factors below are often indicative of potential attraction toward gang affiliation:

  • Long family history: When gang membership can be traced back several generations within the same family, chances for more gang-related ties are increased.
  • The desire for excitement: Taking risks outside the law, driving cool cars and hanging around with people who appear to have lots of power can seem quite thrilling in contrast to the average, mundane activities of daily life.
  • Need for protection: In neighborhoods where there's already a lot of violence, being part of a gang provides a certain sense of security.

These are just a few reasons young people today join gangs. Many organized gangs are comprised of members from various age groups, races, ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic status.

Authorities and professionals who have studied such topics say the consequences and penalties of gang-related crimes should always include a rehabilitative component. If you have been accused of a gang-related crime, regardless of the details, you are to be presumed innocent, unless proved otherwise in court. In order to obtain a just outcome that focuses on your best interests and potential for a positive future, you may seek support and guidance from someone who has successfully defended others in similar past situations.

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