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Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers, and Delinquent Behavior

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 1998
12 pages
Publication Series
Longitudinal research that involved juveniles in Seattle, Wash., and Rochester, N.Y., examined whether gang membership contributes to delinquency above and beyond the influence of associating with delinquent peers.
The Seattle Social Development Project followed a multiethnic urban sample of 808 children from the time they entered the fifth grade in 1985. The analyses in this study are based on surveys conducted when the youth were age 13 (n=654); 14 (n=778); and 15 (n=781). The following three groups were compared according to various measures of delinquency and substance use to determine whether there were significant differences in their rates of offending: gang members, youth with delinquent peers, and youth with nondelinquent peers. The Rochester study has followed a sample of 1,000 urban adolescents initially selected in 1988, when they were in either the seventh or eighth grade. They have been followed until the present and are now 22 years old on average. Each student was interviewed periodically over the course of the middle school and high school years. The data analyzed in this study were taken from interviews that covered ages 14 and 15. Data from both studies provide strong and consistent evidence that being a gang member increases the rate of involvement in a variety of deviant behaviors over and above the impact of having delinquent peers. Indeed, gang membership significantly predicts delinquency, even when controlling for other predictors of both delinquency and gang membership. 3 tables, 7 figures, 13 references, and 12 related readings

Date Published: October 1, 1998