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: Are the world's religions ready for ET?

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

Are the world's religions ready for ET?

10 minutes ago

In 1930, Albert Einstein was asked for his opinion about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. "Other beings, perhaps, but not men," he answered. Then he was asked whether science and religion ...

Putting children first, when media sets its own rules

7 hours ago

In an age when a significant number of parents won't let their child walk down the street to post a letter because of "stranger danger", it's ironic that many pay little attention while media organisations ...

Self-made billionaires more likely to give than inheritors

8 hours ago

A study by economists at the University of Southampton suggests that billionaires who have built their own fortunes are more likely to pledge to donate a large portion of their wealth to charities, than those who are heirs ...

User comments : 0