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Children and young people in gangs

A longitudinal analysis

Limited rights
Published: June 2013

Aim

To conduct secondary longitudinal analysis to understand the causes and consequences of children and young adult’s gang membership. Alongside looking at broad antecedents and consequences of gang membership, the research aims to: enhance our knowledge about developmental patterns of gang membership; and provide a more accurate characterisation of juvenile gangs in England and Wales.

Findings

  • Gang membership increases the chances of offending, antisocial behaviour and drug use, but it is not a sufficient condition for these outcomes.
  • It is difficult to explain how gangs produce these outcomes, but it is likely various mechanisms (i.e. change in routine activities and normative orientation) play a role.
  • Leaving a gang does not automatically and immediately leads to less problem behaviour, but within a year there is a discernible effect. Additionally, most members leave the gang in under one year.
  • Problem and anti-social behaviour are the strongest predictors for joining a gang.
  • Gang members who are more likely to offend are less likely to leave the gang.
  • There is no evidence that the number of young people joining gangs has increased over time.
  • There are diverse sub-groups within the groups commonly labelled as gangs.
  • Police practice tends to focus attention, such as stop and search and stop and account, on two groups: individuals with prior police contact and individuals whose friends have had prior police contact - the "usual suspects".
  • Ethnicity seems to matter more than self-reported offending behaviour for explaining the probability of being stopped and searched.

Methodology

  • Accelerated longitudinal design using data from the Offending Crime and Justice Survey (2003-2006) a longitudinal survey of young people in England and Wales, focused on analyses of young people who were 10-16 in 2003. 

Read the report: Children and young people in gangs