National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

How Street Gangs Recruit and Socialize

Taylor, S. S.
Journal Article
Year Published: 2009
National Gang Crime Research Center
Journal of Gang Research 17(1):1-27, Fall 2009
National Gang Crime Research Center

In this paper, the author explores the subject of gang member recruitment and socialization using a review of the literature on gangs and face-to-face qualitative interviews. The interviews were conducted with a variety of individuals who have had close, regular interaction with gang members, some of whom were gang members themselves and were willing recipients and perpetrators of gang socialization techniques and methods. The author found that gangs recruit and socialize youth who live in their local neighborhood and who attend neighborhood schools. Gangs take advantage of the crises adolescents face in growing up, presenting themselves as one of many reference group choices at a time in the child's life when peers have the most influence. Once a youth becomes interested in being part of a gang, he is in danger of recruitment if he has ongoing contact with gang members. New gang members subject themselves to a process of socialization that opposes many of the values and norms of the general society. As new members gain acceptance and status from constant contact with other members and are allowed to play a role in the delinquent activities of the gang, they are taking part in a process of social learning, a vital part of gang socialization. It is through this process that the new member gains substantive and intuitive understanding of roles, values, norms, beliefs, and status gaining activities. Modified Author Abstract.

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