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Gang Membership as a Risk Factor for Adolescent Violent Victimization

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 44 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 351-380
Terrance J. Taylor; Dana Peterson; Finn-Aage Esbensen; Adrienne Freng
Date Published
November 2007
30 pages

The study used data from a multisite study of youth to explore potential factors related to increased risk.


The findings suggest that gang members are more likely to experience violent victimization as well as greater frequency of victimization than do nongang members. Gang membership was found to be tied to other risk factors, particularly involvement in delinquent lifestyles, thereby accounting for gang members’ increased levels of victimization relative to their nongang peers. Despite that youth were hanging out with peers, unsupervised by adults, and involved in delinquency, gang membership reduced the odds of general violent victimization; in the presence of these same lifestyle factors, however, gang membership increased the odds of serious violent victimization. This finding is consistent with other research, indicating for example, that whereas gang members might experience enhanced levels of certain types of violent victimization, gang involvement might insulate members from other types of violent victimization. Data were collected from youth attending public school in 11 U.S. cities in 1995. Three specific questions were examined: how gang members and non-gang members differed in terms of violent victimization; assuming differences exist, what factors accounted for differences in the extent of violent victimization between gang members and nongang members; and whether gang membership remained a salient correlate of violent victimization, once other relevant factors were controlled? Future research should continue to examine the context of gang members’ violent victimization experiences within and outside of the gang setting. Attempts to disentangle the relationships between gang involvement, involvement in delinquent lifestyles, and victimization should be undertaken. Tables, figure, notes, references