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Disrupting the Pathways to Gang Violence for Youth of Color

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2023
133 pages

In this study, researchers adopt a life course perspective and a mixed-method approach to understand how parental and peer affiliation with gangs influence pathways ot gang violence among youths of color.


This study, informed by a life course perspective, used a mixed methodological approach to identify the differences in events, motivations, and experiences related to gang affiliation and the differences across (a) system-documented, gang-involved individuals, (b) system-documented gang-involved individuals who have gang-involved family members, and (c) other high-risk youth who are suspected of involvement. The results of this study produced a nuanced understanding of these youth’s lives, especially as it relates to their fathers. As expected, when fathers were identified as having involvement in gangs themselves, youths were significantly more likely to also become members. The overall goal of this research was to identify distinct pathways to gang activity that could inform practitioners and policymakers about useful intervention strategies. This research fills a literature gap about the relationships between and amongst fathers and sons, and how those relationships transmit both criminogenic and protective factors that would encourage or discourage gang affiliation and gang activity. Father gang involvement continued to be a strong predictor of youth gang involvement even when controlling for other social relationships (e.g., peers, siblings, cousins), but not as much as same generation and peer influence. Importantly, fathers were not the sole social influence on a youth’s decision to join a gang. Peer and same generation family (siblings and cousins) gang involvement were as strong or stronger predictors of a youth’s involvement in crime and gangs as were the variables associated with fathers. The findings unexpectedly revealed that an increase in the most logged life events during a three-month timeframe reduced risk of escalation as a youth.

Date Published: January 1, 2023