About Street Gangs

Since the beginning of time, there have been street gangs. No matter how developed a nation or region is, their influence can still be felt everywhere. According to Ruble & Turner (2000), the term “street gang” designates a specific group made up of young people with varying degrees of structure and cohesion. These individuals maintain constant communication with one another, have means of identifying with their group, and follow the laws and customs of their ruling structure. These gangs usually provide various functions which include protection, support, a sense of belonging, social status, identity and most of all, an intense emotional relationship which is an element that facilitates increased chances of survival. This strong association makes a gang to be considered as the equivalent of a family system in terms of structure, organization and event functionality. Previously, assumptions concerning street gangs have hindered the adequate and efficient provision of relevant interventions to these individuals. However, this paper opens up a new breakthrough which emphasizes the importance of understanding the systemic organization of gangs through a holistic approach. Once all the details become available, then it is possible to direct various practical remedies to help these individuals. This paper, therefore, summarizes key points which include types of gangs, demographics, the systematic nature of groups and also recommended interventions.

Systematics of Street Gangs

In the wake of increased gang-related criminal activities, including violence and homicide, governments are seeking appropriate measures to prevent such unlawful undertakings by these groups other than arrest and imprisonment. Understanding the essence of gangs has escaped law-enforcers and researchers for quite some time. However, an in-depth outlook on the systemic dynamics, organization, structure, and functions is the key to solving this issue before it worsens. The authors highlight three types of gangs. The first is known as the social gang which is comprised of permanent groups found in certain locations. This band rarely engages in criminal activity except in instances of attack and retaliation. The second kind is the delinquent gang which is cohesive and strives to acquire monetary gains through illegal operations. Last is the violent group which seeks to obtain power through violence. This classification is crucial more so when it comes to the selection of best methods of assistance.

One of the most important aspects that require sufficient understanding is the demography of street gangs. This is essential for developing methodologies that fit the age, gender, race as well as location of the individual members. Apparently, while the age of gang members is not particular, most of the individuals fall between 14 and 24 years old. This age translates to a greater percentage of adolescents and young adults. Concerning gender, gangs with violence and criminal tendencies are usually male-dominated with females assuming a relatively passive role including auxiliary functions, cover-up, spies, lures and even sex for the male gang members. The ethnic and racial compositions appear to be highly inclusive of minority groups which exhibit racial exclusivity. Such groups include African-American, Asian gangs, European, Hispanic and so on. Finally, the locations of street gangs are widespread from cities to slums, suburbs and even rural areas.

Ruble & Turner (2000), mention that street gangs are ongoing, open social systems in a manner that befits that of the family system. There is a hierarchy where members have specific roles and responsibilities, subsystems for the provision of interdependence and influence among the members and suprasystems which encompasses the presence of friends, family, neighbors, communities, schools and even places of work among other socio-ethnic components of the surrounding. Another aspect is that of entropy which is characterized by disorder and disintegration of the hang leading to chaos and imbalance. Boundaries, communication, and homeostasis or adaptation to the environment for continuity is also an observable element


The article focuses on family therapy as one of the top recommended interventions to the challenge of street gangs. The implementation of family therapy is embedded in the fact that the primary cause of the development of gangs is profoundly affected by family dysfunction. Simply put, issues that develop within families, for instance, violence, neglect, abuse and unconducive conditions among other situations all contribute to the increasing number of teens and young adults in street gangs (Taylor, 2013). For this reason, a family therapy approach must focus on dealing with family dynamics, roles, rules and practical strategies for conflict resolution. Such interventions include effective communication, listening to one another, expression of personal feeling, respect, and discussion of gender issues and stereotypes. Other supplementary mediations include group therapy, an approach that enhances change, maintaining the commitment to behavior change and reinforcement to the achievement of new goals.


Contrary to the misplaced assumption that street gangs are composed of hooligans who undertake illegal activities and engage in violence, it is now clear that these gangs are systematic. It is a family that serves its members accordingly through sustenance, protection, closeness, acceptance, esteem, a network and emotional support. However, the possibility of crime and violence is present. As such, an understanding of how this system works paves the way for the creation of family and group-based interventions which are holistic and relevant. Additionally, this information creates a platform for further research on plausible therapies that cut across the complex structure of street gangs, their functionality as well as culture.


Ruble, N. M., & Turner, W. L. (2000). A Systemic Analysis of the Dynamics and Organization of Urban Street Gangs. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 28(2), 117-132.

Taylor, S. S. (2013). Why American boys join street gangs. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 5(8), 339-349. DOI: 10.5897/IJSA12.073.

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