Despite increased danger, youth gang members still feel safer (w/Video)

June 3, 2009
Despite increased danger, youth gang members still feel safer
Chris Melde is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University. Credit: Michigan State University

Children who join gangs feel safer despite a greater risk of being assaulted or killed, according to federally funded research led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

The findings by MSU's Chris Melde, which appear in the current edition of the journal , may help explain why youth continue to join street gangs despite the well-established danger.

"It's a paradox," said Melde, assistant professor of criminal justice. "Gang members essentially are not allowed to show and this can have a profound impact on adolescents. Their quest for acceptance, along with their immersion into this culture steeped in violence, may ultimately numb their reaction to violence, including their fear of victimization."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Chris Melde, assistant professor at Michigan State University, discusses his study on youth gangs and violence. Credit: Michigan State University

While many researchers look at the downside of gang membership, Melde's research explores the potential benefits - or at least the perceived benefits. The current research is part of a larger project led by professor Finn-Aage Esbensen at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and funded by the National Institute of Justice, a department of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The project is believed to be the first long-term analysis of its kind. Melde and his colleagues studied 1,450 public school students in the sixth through ninth grades during a two-year period. The students came from 15 schools in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

The students who joined gangs said they had higher levels of victimization, but also reported a relatively large decrease in fear at the same time. Victimization ranged from the fear of home invasion to being attacked.

The study also highlights a possible intervention point. Because fear, which affects decision-making, generally peaks immediately following a violent action - and before the gang can organize a response - Melde said that might be the best time to try convincing gang members to quit.

"Intervening in their lives right then may impact their decision whether they stay in a or not," he said.

Source: Michigan State University (news : web)

Explore further: In violent neighborhoods, adults too fearful to intervene with most young offenders

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.