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Dreams, Gangs and Guns: The Interplay Between Adolescent Violence and Immigration in a New York City Neighborhood

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2001
41 pages
This study examined the effect immigration had on a sample of adolescents and their immigrant parents, as well as on the adolescents' adaptation to the organization of conflict in the neighborhood where their parents lived.
The data collected pertained to the immigration experiences of 25 families in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of New York City, most of them from the Dominican Republic. The data presented in this report includes information collected as part of a larger longitudinal and ethnographic study of adolescent violence. As part of this study, the author began participant observation in a junior high school in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood. For 3 years, he tracked and documented the social development of 25 students, beginning when the students were in seventh grade and ending with the completion of their first year of high school. He also interviewed the students and their parents once annually for the duration of the study (three waves). The author spent many hours observing the school as a whole, noting conflict situations and violent incidents among students in the school and in the neighborhood. An additional fourth wave of interviews was conducted with 12 of the original 25 sample members, so as to further explore the way their immigration history was affecting their development. The study identified a generational disconnect between immigrant parents and their adolescent children. This caused the youth to rely primarily on their peers for advice and cues regarding behavior for adapting to the often violent reality in their school and neighborhood. First-generation immigrant adolescents and second-generation adolescents adopted violent behaviors to protect themselves from actual or perceived threats from others in their neighborhood. The author argues that once the violent circumstances dissipate, affiliations with violent adolescent peer groups also diminish. 2 tables and a 32-item bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 2001