“Tell Me Who You Hang with and I’ll Tell You What You Are:” Gang Identity, Organization, and Desistance
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Criminologists disagree on the level of organization present in street gangs. On one end of the spectrum, gangs are thought to be highly organized groups with formal rules and regulations. Conversely, some scholars argue that gangs are groups of loosely affiliated individuals. The present research will revisit this debate by looking at how gang organization, as perceived by individual gang members, affects the length of time an individual spends in a gang. This research also investigates how one’s identity as a gang member affects desistance from the gang. As a competing explanation, we examine the role of self-control theory in relation to desistance from gang membership. We use discrete-time event history models to evaluate whether perceived gang organization and an individual’s identity as a gang member impact desistance from street gangs. Results indicate that increased perceived gang organization is independently associated with longer length of time in the gang. Furthermore, the effect of one’s social identity on the length of time in the gang is mediated by whether the individual has peers outside the gang and how much time they spend with their gang peers.
- Sociology