Youth gang membership: Factors influencing and maintaining membership
Campbell, S. M. (2011). Youth gang membership: Factors influencing and maintaining membership (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/6065
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/6065
The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of young people who were actively engaged in youth gangs. This included developing an understanding of the factors that both influenced and maintained their desire for youth gang membership. This was achieved by carrying out seven semi-structured interviews with young people aged between sixteen and twenty-three who were residing in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim to ensure the experiences of these young people were accurately recorded. A thematic analysis of the data was then carried out, highlighting both the themes and subthemes across the data set. Five primary themes were identified within this data set to highlight the factors that both influenced and maintained a desire for youth gang membership. This included the influence of friends, the availability of money, and a desire to participate in antisocial behaviours within the gang. Participants also explained the importance of their neighbourhood surroundings in facilitating youth gang membership. While these overarching themes have been previously reported within literature (Goldstein, 1991; Thornberry, Krohn, Lizotte, Smith & Tobin, 2003), the young people in this study offered their subtly unique experiences and journey into the gang lifestyle. The final theme highlighted the negative evaluation that these young people perceived to experience from others which influenced and maintained their desire to pursue the gang lifestyle. This finding is not as prevalent in the existing youth gang literature, but is discussed within the social psychology literature as the "self-fulfilling prophecy". One of the main findings of this study was that these young people were engaged in the youth gang lifestyle from as young as nine years of age. Once accepted into the gang, participants explained that they then began to withdraw from school and other mainstream activities to pursue their life in the gang. It then became difficult to present these young people with an alternative to their chosen lifestyle as they had access to the support, tangible goods and respect that was desired. They were also accepted into a group of like-minded friends who existed as a substitute family. Further research is needed to better understand the variety of experiences that young people in New Zealand have when joining a youth gang.
University of Waikato
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