the youth joining gangs

Throughout the country, the youth have become the most vulnerable age demographic in terms of gang recruiting.

Despite steps taken to control the proliferation of gangs, the issue of juvenile street gangs has stood the test of time. Since many young adults are ambitious and have many unachieved aspirations, the window of opportunities offered by gangs seems to be the preference of many (Sanders, 2017).

The issue is that gangs are synonymous with brutality, criminality, substance trafficking, and all other types of social misbehavior.

Breaking the law for gang members is the spirit that fuels the relationship between the members and those that exercise free will and autonomy in the way of thinking are considered weak;( Chibnall, 2013) they most likely end up dead, killed by their fellows. The violence involved in the daily operations of gangs leaves behind a large trail of dead bodies; gang members and innocent people alike.

Why is the topic important?

A critical study into the reasons why the youth are lured into gangs could as well be the beginning of finding long lasting solutions against crime by gangs in the society. By offering, in the society, what the youths are lacking, we create a better chance of ensuring they do not resort to crime and gang recruitment in a bid to satisfy their goals. This study could also attempt to highlight ways through which youths can withdraw from the gangs.

Literature Review

Youth gangs and crime.

Studies show that even though gangs are responsible for many crimes, most crimes committed are individual based. (Muncie, 2014). This means that many gang members have a natural inclination to committing crime other than the desire to follow command given by the gang leaders. You could ask why then should such individuals form gangs or get recruited? This is probably because gangs are associated with power and affluence.( Wilson, 2013). It is believed that gangs are untouchable by the police task force and other checks put in place because of their large numbers. A large gang membership not only gives a sense of security for the members but also ensures there is proper backing for them to pull off major crimes such as theft and other gang raids.

Recruitment into the gangs is often through violence and members of the gang are kept in check though use of force.(Scott, 2014).

Those who seem to be betraying the course are dealt with severely. Members adhere to set rules that often have no withdrawal from the gang. Members of a particular gang have their own code of conduct, language and signs that are unique to them. (Densley, 2013).This not only identifies different gangs but serves to unite them.

Reasons why youths are lured into gangs and crime.


Poverty stricken youths end up joining gangs to fill up this void. Growing up without basic needs such as food and clothing hardens youths who resort to crime to satisfy this needs. Envy for what other people posses that the youth lack makes them look for an opportunity to acquire this things easily, as long as they swear their allegiance to certain gang.(Wolf, 2017). The gang power mentality and the affluence offered by money laundering and drug sale makes it hard for many youths to resist joining gangs. Drug and substance abuse: Minors whose parents abuse drugs are lured into gangs probably because they are familiar with a rogue way of life that involves stealing, mugging and even violence. The thug life behavior is ingrained in them; they have no choice but to live the life they learnt. In addition, drug and substance abuse among the youth makes it difficult to make sound decisions and therefore they are easily convinced to join gangs or commit crime. (HUMPHREY,2013).

Peer pressure:

Many youths have failed to recognize the influence their friend have on them regarding the decisions they make in life and how they react to problems in the society. It is the need for acceptance among friends that makes one want to prove that they are not cowards and can break the law. Youths who are already exposed to crime put pressure on their friends and make them choose between friendship and conforming to crime. (Sweeten et al., 2013)

Need for a sense of belonging:

Youths who have low self esteem may be lured into gangs where they are accorded the respect they may have lacked amongst their peers. At times, youths who lack strong ties with their families, friends or other members of the society turn to gangs for a source of identity.

Poor parentage:

Parents who are irresponsible do not offer wise counsel to their children. In fact, parents who have a criminal history tend to pass on that attribute to their children. (Chesney & Pasko2013). This leaves many youths with no defense against attempts to recruit them in crime and gangs.

Need for a sense of security and stability:

In the process of pursuing personal development and goals realization, many youths resort to crime. This is because gang crimes promise rewards to their members after carrying out robbery.(Pitts,2012) Being a gang member also offers protection from other gangs.

Need for companionship and excitement:

Many youths find it overwhelming to break the law, often in the company of their peers. Gang members popularize gang life and make it seem adventurous and fun. (Williams, 2013).

Poor academic performance:

Most youths drop out of school due to poor performance and the only means they have of making a living is crime and recruitment in gangs. Crime such as robbery offers a quick means of finding money. The acceptance offered by gangs also does not discriminate against poor academic performers.

Community upheavals:

In neighborhoods where drug abuse is rampant, the likelihood of young people resorting to crime is high. (Eguizábal et al.,2015) Such crisis-stricken communities give rise to hardened criminals who have become used to being arrested.

Unavailability of employment opportunities:

This makes the youths search for ways to satisfy their needs. Also, they are left with a lot of idle time that makes them form groups that grow into gangs.

Lack of enlightenment on dangers of gang membership:

Youths who do not understand the risks involved in gang activity are lured into joining gangs. They do not put in mind the legal problems associated with gang activity.

Reconciling Discrepancies

A conflicting factor is whether the youth can be deterred from joining gangs and criminal activities as long as the factors mentioned above are dealt with appropriately. Studies are yet to prove that in the absence of reasons why the youth engage in crime and gang activities there will be fewer gangs in the community. (Shelden et al., 2012). As reported in one study, however, is that a person joins a gang based on personal affiliations such as peer pressure. There cannot, therefore, be a complete answer as to why youths join gangs or engage in criminal activities. (Melde & Esbensen, 2013)

Relevant theory

A suitable theory is that the decision to join gangs and engage in criminal activity is a result of a combination of several compelling reasons rather than one single reason. Solving the gang-related problem is, therefore, a task that involves critical analysis of a number of predisposing factors.


  • Chesney-Lind, M., & Pasko, L. (2013). The female offender: Girls, women, and crime. Sage.

  • Chibnall, S. (Ed.). (2013). Law-and-order news: An analysis of crime reporting in the British press (Vol. 2). Routledge.

  • Densley, J. A. (2013). How gangs work. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Eguizábal, C., Ingram, M. C., Curtis, K. M., Korthuis, A., Olson, E. L., & Phillips, N. (2015). Crime and Violence in Central America's Northern Triangle. Research Report. Retrieved from Wilson Center website:

  • HUMPHREY, R. D. A. H. (2013). Black Youth and The Juvenile Justice System. AuthorHouse.

  • Melde, C., & Esbensen, F. A. (2013). Gangs and violence: Disentangling the impact of gang membership on the level and nature of offending. Journal of quantitative criminology, 29(2), 143-166.

  • Muncie, J. (2014). Youth and crime. Sage.

  • Pitts, J. (2012). Reluctant criminologists: Criminology, ideology and the violent youth gang. Youth and policy, 109, p27-45.

  • Sanders, W. (2017). Gangbangs and drive-bys: Grounded culture and juvenile gang violence. Routledge.

  • Scott, D. W. (2014). Attitude is everything: Youth attitudes, gang involvement, and length of institutional gang membership. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17(6), 780-798.

  • Shelden, R., Tracy, S., & Brown, W. (2012). Youth gangs in American society. Nelson Education.

  • Sweeten, G., Piquero, A. R., & Steinberg, L. (2013). Age and the explanation of crime, revisited. Journal of youth and adolescence, 42(6), 921-938.

  • Williams, M. (2013). Bad boys and tough tattoos: A social history of the tattoo with gangs, sailors, and street-corner punks 1950-1965. Routledge.

  • Wilson, J. (2013). Thinking about crime. Basic Books (AZ).

  • Wolf, S. (2017). Mano Dura: The Politics of Gang Control in El Salvador. University of Texas Press.

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