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

Jun 03, 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: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study explodes myths of gang life

Jul 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two years of field work with members of six English gangs has produced one of the most revealing portraits of their lives, exploding distorted stereotypes of their culture.

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

20 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

23 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

'Exotic' material is like a switch when super thin

(Phys.org) —Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides, a class of materials that seems to have it all: superconductivity, magnetoresistance ...