Moving Beyond Race: Revisiting the Roles of Childhood Poverty and Other Environmental Risks as Predictors of Adolescent Gang Membership
Bishop, Asia Sarah
MetadataShow full item record
Historically, adolescent gang membership has had pervasive effects on society, with even greater effects falling on specific communities of color. There has been a significant amount of research aimed at attempting to understand why youth join gangs; however, there seems to be a disconnect between the literature on predictive factors of gang membership and the racial-ethnic stereotypes that are often perpetuated through popular media outlets. Popular media has often portrayed gang members as young, socially unattached African American males residing in urbanized areas. Although the role of race-ethnicity in gang membership appears salient throughout virtually all gang-related studies, findings regarding the notion of a racialized paradigm in relation to risk factors for adolescent gang involvement are severely limited. Therefore, this study examines the link between race and gang membership by revisiting the roles of childhood poverty and other environmental risks. Data used in this sample were drawn from the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP), a longitudinal study of positive and negative aspects of childhood and adolescent development. The racial effect seen in predicting gang membership was ultimately accounted for by childhood poverty and various neighborhood and familial factors. These findings suggest that popular media's depictions of who joins a gang and why are serving to perpetuate stereotypes without providing appropriate context into the complexity of our current gang problem; it is not one's racial-ethnic identity that creates and sustains gangs and related violence, but larger systemic issues that also need to be taken into consideration. Policy implications are drawn, which discuss the role of contemporary America's racialized society and its effects on current rates of gang membership and subsequent violence.