Publication Date

Spring 2019


Helms School of Government


Criminal Justice


gangs, youth


Criminal Law


Youth gang involvement and resulting engagement in delinquent acts is a widespread societal problem in large cities across America, which affects the lives and well-being of hundreds of people every day. There are two main approaches to understanding the factors or causes behind this involvement. The risk-protective model holds that behavior is the result of the sum total of influences that risk factors have on increasing the likelihood of the behavior and protective factors have on decreasing the likelihood of the behavior. A number of risk factors exist for youth gang involvement, with the principal domains being individual, family, community, peer, and neighborhood. Of these, parenting practices in the family factor domain are of particular importance and influence for youth gang involvement. The developmental cascade model affirms the importance of parenting in the presence or absence of cascading effects in a child’s life. The formation of internalizing and externalizing problems seems to be the earliest indicator of cascading effects towards gang involvement, according to this model. Little that is being done currently is resulting in any significant change in the prevalence or the impact of youth gangs in their communities. A church-based prevention program is proposed to begin to help meet this need, and future directions for research and prevention are discussed.

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