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Reasons Kids Join Gangs

Updated on July 19, 2012

Gang Q & A

Q. Does my city have gangs?

A. Any city with a population over 250,000 has gangs. While 86% of cities with 100,000 people have reported gangs.

Q. Do girls join gangs?

A. Around 32,000 female teenagers are gang members. But, 60% of gangs discriminate against female members.

Q. How much non-fatal crime can be blamed on gangs?

A. Only about 6%- or for every 6.6 million crimes reported, only 370,000 are gang-related. Of course, take into consideration gangs don't usually bother people outside of their territory and for many reasons gang offenses often go unreported.


The Glamor of a Gang

Gangs are glamorized by popular media even more than they are stigmatized
Gangs are glamorized by popular media even more than they are stigmatized

Approximately 40% of all Gang Members are Juviniles

From the suburban worldview of two-story homes and Honda mini-vans, the idea of a ‘gang’ seems downright terrifying. The gang members themselves: complete monsters. Law enforcement tries extremely hard to shut down gangs as the media portrays these thugs as cold-blooded murders without a heart and soul. But most gang members didn’t start off this way; they were once innocent children, terrified of gunshots themselves. So how does our youth get on the path to a gang-life, and what rationalizations are they making along the way?

Fear

Have you ever gotten off on the wrong exit, found yourself in a bad part of town just as the sun goes down? You probably made sure your doors were locked as you scanned for a way out of here- cursing yourself for the silly mistake. Humans work off flight or fight- as a middle class citizen you had the ability to flight the bad neighborhood. For kids trapped living in the depths of poverty, there’s nowhere to run, all they’ve got is the option to fight.

Kids are fearful of being bullied, many join a gang for the sense of protection humans instinctually crave. With both parents working two jobs and a long walk home from school, would you want to trot home in fear everyday?

Normalized

To some people the world “gang” is a mysterious term, something they’ve only seen in movies and on the news. If ever faced with a real gang, they would be terrified. Yet, for others, gangs have been present in their life for a long time. When you’re born and raised in the thick of it- with family members and neighbors a part of gangs- it doesn’t seem so taboo.

Despite the fact everyone we see on TV is rich, poor kids don’t even know they are poor until they are socialized with other classes. Therefore, even if the TV says gangs are bad, and the teacher says gangs are bad, kids are not likely listening. Actions speak louder than words and kids follow examples- not meaningless warnings. Living in a world that views gangs as normal erases the fear factor and instead kids interpret them as a way to survive.

Status

Growing up poor doesn’t afford the luxury of a sports car, fancy college, or a wardrobe the envy of all classmates. Unfortunately, these are the ways we prove our worth- through money and class status. When your parents can hardly keep food on the table, the last thing on your mind is becoming the next graduate of Harvard. Humans don’t easily sink to their demise- they fight for the status that earns respect. For those that can’t obtain wealth, another form of prestige must be created- such as a gang.

Gangs are powerful and have status, just as a wealthy businessman would. Both have generated their status off the backs of other people. While the gang member has stolen lives, so has a certain type businessman. (Did you know that each year in China over 300,000 people die due to the poor factory conditions approved by idolized businessmen in the name of profit?) Both have bloated egos and a skewed worldview that allows their deplorable behavior. But only one is stigmatized and criminalized.

Nothing Else to Do

1/3 of all US children are latchkey kids, meaning they carry a key in their pocket because their parents are not often home. No parent wants to turn their child into a latchkey kid but for those in poverty, the other option is homelessness. Living in a poor area that has high gang activity, kids are even more susceptible to gang involvement with no supervision.

A gang can feel like a first real family to a teen that has spent a great deal of their life feeling bored and alone. Also, when parents have less time to give their kids attention, they have less time to teach them right versus wrong. So even if parents are anti-gang, the message is likely ignored or not heard at all by their son or daughter.

Kids growing up under tough conditions often feel wronged, spit-on by the world. And in the race to survive, a gang can quickly become the most glamorous option.

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    • Josak profile image

      Josak 5 years ago from variable

      Also the desire for acceptance and camaraderie I think, a sense of belonging. Great hub, voted up and interesting.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Strong Hub! I tend to agree with Josak. Many of these "gang members" come from single parent families, if that. They're cast aside to fend on their own because their parent(s) (often minors when giving birth) can't teach them what they have never learned. The environmental conditioning given creates a need for something more. The "gang" gives them a place to feel needed, live by a set of rules, and afford them the sense of belonging Josak stated. Enjoyed Reading as always! Voted up and interesting.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Becky,

      I definitely agree with Josak and rcrumple, that these kids are dying for accpeptance. It is not an excuse that they have come from bad family environments, if they have, but yet sad. It os very sad that they didn't have the privilege to raised by loving parents who cared for them and let them jnow they loved them. If you are not accepted at home, life will not be easy!

      Very informative hub, and as you can tell from the comments very insightful as well. You have caused us to think, so great hub!

    • Becky Bruce profile image
      Author

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Thanks Josak, rcrumple, and josh! I'm glad to see we are all in agreement here! The more that we understand why gangs form, the better able we are to solve the issues... when we just criminalize and stigmatize everything we don't get a chance to stop anything- in fact, it seems we only make things worse. Just look at our prisons- the places meant to stop and punish gangs, yet violent prison gangs are a large problem and some have never even joined a gang until they get into prison. Obviously something is not working.

      Glad to have all of you enlightened and intelligent individuals as friends on Hubpages!

    • CriticalMessage profile image

      Murphy 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Intimidation is an awfully influential persuader.. Do it or we are going to kill your family.. So many running around out there without a conscious.. Good Hub generating good food for thought.. Up and awesome with this!

    • Becky Bruce profile image
      Author

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Thanks criticalmessage!

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