Advertisement

Gang Organization and Gang Identity: An Investigation of Enduring Gang Membership

  • John LeversoEmail author
  • Ross L. Matsueda
Revision

Abstract

Objectives

Motivated by recent advances in the study of disengagement from street gangs, this research develops a theoretical framework of enduring gang membership based on gang organization and gang identity. Using multivariate data, this research tests the theoretical framework against a competing theory derived from the general theory of crime where gang organization and gang identity are non-existent or unimportant in producing enduring gang membership.

Methods

Eight waves of panel data on high-risk youth from the Denver Youth Survey and discrete-time event-history models are used to investigate enduring gang membership.

Results

The length of time an individual spends in a gang is associated with the perceived organization of the gang and an individual’s gang identity. In a hazard model, accounting for right censoring, low self-control, and contextual time-varying gang related variables, increases in gang identity were associated with (on average) a 26% lower rate of reporting no longer being a gang member. Increases in perceived gang organization were associated with (on average) a 12% lower rate of reporting no longer being a gang member. Surprisingly however, no association was found between gang organization and gang identity.

Conclusions

This research finds support for using a theoretical framework based on gang organization and gang identity to understand enduring gang membership. Both gang identity and gang organization exert independent effects on the length of time an individual spends in a gang.

Keywords

Gangs Disengagement from gangs Enduring gang membership Gang organization Gang identity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Callie Burt, Jerry Herting, Katherine O’Neill, and Lynette Hoelter for helpful comments on an earlier draft, Aimée Dechter for helpful advice, and the Center for Social Science Computation and Research at the University of Washington and Charles Lanfear for computing assistance.

Funding

This research was supported by grants from the Blumstein-Jordan Endowed Professorship in Sociology, University of Washington, the National Institute of Justice (2014-R2-CX-0018), and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (1256082). Partial support for this research came from a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development research infrastructure grant to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington (R24 HD042828).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Allison PD (1982) Discrete-time methods for the analysis of event histories. Sociol Methodol 13:61–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison PD (2013) Event history analysis. Sage Publication, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker HS (1963) Outsiders studies in the sociology of deviance. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloch HA, Niederhoffer A (1958) The gang: a study in adolescent behavior. Philosophical Library, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Bouchard M, Spindler A (2010) Groups, gangs, and delinquency: does organization matter? J Crim Justice 38:921–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown R, Condor S, Mathews A, Wade G, Williams J (1986) Explaining intergroup differentiation in an industrial organization. J Occup Org Psychol 59:273–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burt CH, Sweeten G, Simons RL (2014) Self-control through emerging adulthood: instability, multidimensionality, and criminological significance. Criminology 52:450–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carson DC, Vecchio JM (2015) Leaving the gang. In: Decker SH, Pyrooz DC (eds) The handbook of gangs. Wiley, West Sussex, pp 257–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cloward RA, Ohlin LE (1960) Delinquency and opportunity: a theory of delinquent gangs. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Cressey DR (1972) Criminal organization: its elementary forms. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Decker SH, Curry GD (2000) Addressing key features of gang membership: measuring the involvement of young members. J Crim Justice 28:473–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Decker SH, Lauritsen JL (2002) Leaving the gang. In: Huff RH (ed) Gangs in America 3. Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp 51–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Decker SH, Van Winkle B (1994) ‘Slinging dope’: the role of gangs and gang members in drug sales. Justice Q 11:583–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Decker SH, Van Winkle B (1996) Life in the gang: family, friends, and violence. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Decker SH, Katz CM, Webb VJ (2008) Understanding the black box of gang organization: implications for involvement in violent crime, drug sales, and violent victimization. Crime Delinq 54:153–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Decker SH, Melde C, Pyrooz DC (2013) What do we know about gangs and gang members and where do we go from here? Justice Q 30:369–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Decker SH, Pyrooz DC, Moule RK Jr (2014a) Disengagement from gangs as role transitions. J Res Adolesc 24(2):268–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Decker SH, Pyrooz DC, Sweeten G, Moule RK (2014b) Validating self-nomination in gang research: assessing differences in gang embeddedness across non-, current, and former gang members. J Quant Criminol 30:577–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Densley JA, Pyrooz DC (2017) A signaling perspective on disengagement from gangs. Justice Q. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2017.1357743 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dewey J (1922) Human nature and conduct. Henry Holt and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. DiMaggio P, Powell WW (1983) The iron cage revisited: collective rationality and institutional isomorphism in organizational fields. Am Sociol Rev 48:147–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Durán R (2013) Gang life in two cities: an insider’s journey. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Durkheim E (1964) The division of labor in society. Free Press, New York (1893) Google Scholar
  24. Ellemers N, Kortekaas P, Ouwerkerk JW (1999) Self-categorisation, commitment to the group and group self-esteem as related but distinct aspects of social identity. Eur J Soc Psychol 29:371–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Esbensen FA, Huizinga D (1990) Community structure and drug use: from a social disorganization perspective. Justice Q 7:691–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Esbensen FA, Huizinga D (1993) Gangs, drugs, and delinquency in a survey of urban youth. Criminology 31:565–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Esbensen FA, Weerman FM (2006) Youth gangs and troublesome youth groups in the United States and the Netherlands. Eur J Criminol 2:5–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Esbensen FA, Deschenes EP, Winfree LT Jr (1999) Differences between gang girls and gang boys: results from a multisite survey. Youth Soc 31:27–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Esbensen FA, Winfree LT Jr, He N, Taylor TJ (2001) Youth gangs and definitional issues: when is a gang a gang, and why does it matter? NCCD News 47:105–130Google Scholar
  30. Fagan J (1989) The social organization of drug use and drug dealing among urban gangs. Criminology 27:633–670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gambetta D (1993) The Sicilian Mafia: the business of private protection. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Gambetta D (2009) Codes of the underworld: how criminals communicate. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  33. Giordano PC, Cernkovich SA, Rudolph JL (2002) Gender, crime, and desistance: toward a theory of cognitive transformation. Am J Sociol 107:990–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goldman L, Giles H, Hogg MA (2014) Going to extremes: social identity and communication processes associated with gang membership. Group Process Intergr Relat 17:813–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gordon RA, Lahey BB, Kawai E, Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M, Farrington DP (2004) Antisocial behavior and youth gang membership: selection and socialization. Criminology 42:55–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gottfredson MR, Hirschi T (1990) A general theory of crime. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  37. Grasmick HG, Tittle CR, Bursik RJ, Arneklev BJ (1993) Testing the core empirical implications of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime. J Res Crime Delinq 30:5–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hennigan K, Spanovic M (2012) Gang dynamics through the lens of social identity theory. In: Esbensen FA, Maxson CL (eds) Youth gangs in international perspective. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Hindelang MJ, Hirschi T, Weis JG (1981) Measuring delinquency. Sage Publications, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  40. Hirschi T, Gottfredson MR (1993) Commentary: testing the general theory of crime. J Res Crime Delinq 30:47–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hogg MA, Abrams D (1993) Towards a single-process uncertainty-reduction model of social motivation in groups. In: Hogg MA, Abrams D (eds) Group motivation: social psychological perspectives. Havester Wheatsheaf, BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  42. Hogg MA, Terry DI (2000) Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Acad Manag Rev 25:121–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hope TL (2003) Do families matter? The relative effects of family characteristics, selfcontrol, and delinquency on gang membership. In: Calhoun TC, Chapple CL (eds) Readings in juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, pp 168–185Google Scholar
  44. Horowitz R (1983) Honor and the American dream: culture and identity in a Chicano community. Rutgers University Press, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  45. Howell JC (2007) Menacing or mimicking? Realities of youth gangs. Juv Fam Court J 58:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Howell JC, Griffiths E (2015) Gangs in America’s communities. Sage Publications, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  47. Hughes LA (2013) Group cohesiveness, gang member prestige, and delinquency and violence in Chicago, 1959–1962. Criminology 51:795–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hughes LA, Short JF (2005) Disputes involving youth street gang members: micro-social contexts. Criminology 43:43–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Huizinga, D. Denver Youth Survey Waves 1–10, (1987-1999) [Denver, Colorado]Google Scholar
  50. Jankowski MS (1991) Islands in the street: gangs and American urban society. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  51. Kalbfleisch JD, Prentice RL (1980) The statistical analysis of failure time data. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Keane C, Maxim PS, Teevan JJ (1993) Drinking and driving, self-control, and gender: testing a general theory of crime. J Res Crime Delinq 30:30–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. King G, Roberts ME (2015) How robust standard errors expose methodological problems they do not fix and what to do about it? Polit Anal 23:159–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Klein MW (1971) Street gangs and street workers. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  55. Laub JH, Sampson RJ (2003) Shared beginnings, divergent lives: delinquent boys to age 70. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  56. Luhtanen R, Crocker J (1992) A collective self-esteem scale: self-evaluation of one’s social identity. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 18:302–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lynskey DP, Winfree LT, Esbensen FA, Clason DL (2000) Linking gender, minority group status and family matters to self-control theory: a multivariate analysis of key self- control concepts in a youth-gang context. Juv Fam Court J 51:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mael F, Ashforth BE (1992) Alumni and their alma mater: a partial test of the reformulated model of organizational identification. J Org Behav 13:103–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Maruna S (2012) Elements of successful desistance signaling. Criminol Public Policy 11(1):73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Matsueda RL (1992) Reflected appraisals, parental labeling, and delinquency: specifying a symbolic interactionist theory. Am J Sociol 97:1577–1611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Matsueda RL (2006) Criminological implications of the thought of George Herbert Mead. In: Deflem M (ed) Sociological theory and criminological research: views from Europe and the United States. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 77–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Matsueda RL (2013) Rational choice research in criminology: a multi-level framework. In: Wittek R, Snijders T, Nee V (eds) Handbook of rational choice social research. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, pp 283–321Google Scholar
  63. Matsueda RL (2017) The 2016 Sutherland address: “toward an analytical criminology: the micro-macro problem, causal mechanisms, and public policy”. Criminology 55:493–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Maxson CL, Esbensen FA (2012) The intersection of gang definition and group process: concluding observations. In: Maxson CL, Esbensen FA (eds) Youth gangs in international perspective. Springer, New York, pp 303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Mead GH (1934) Mind, self and society. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  66. Melde C, Esbensen FA (2011) Gang membership as a turning point in the life course. Criminology 49:513–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Melde C, Esbensen FA (2013) The relative impact of gang status transitions: identifying the mechanisms of change in delinquency. J Res Crime Delinq 51:259–276Google Scholar
  68. Melde C, Diem C, Drake G (2012) Identifying correlates of stable gang membership. J Contemp Crim Justice 28:482–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Meyer JW, Rowan B (1977) Institutionalized organizations: formal structure as myth and ceremony. Am J Sociol 83:340–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Miller J (2001) One of the guys: girls, gangs, and gender. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  71. Na C, Paternoster R (2012) Can self-control change substantially over time? rethinking the relationship between self-and social control. Criminology 50:427–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Padilla FM (1992) The gang as an American enterprise. Rutgers University Press, RutgersGoogle Scholar
  73. Papachristos AV (2009) Murder by structure: dominance relations and the social structure of gang homicide. Am J Sociol 115:74–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Papachristos AV, Hureau DM, Braga AA (2013) The corner and the crew: the influence of geography and social networks on gang violence. Am Sociol Rev 78:417–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Peterson D, Taylor TJ, Esbensen FA (2004) Gang membership and violent victimization. Justice Q 21:793–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Pyrooz DC (2014) From your first cigarette to your last dyin’day: the patterning of gang membership in the life-course. J Quant Criminol 30:349–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Pyrooz DC, Decker SH (2011) Motives and methods for leaving the gang: understanding the process of gang desistance. J Crim Justice 39:417–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Pyrooz DC, Sweeten G (2015) Gang membership between ages 5 and 17 years in the United States. J Adolesc Health 56:414–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Pyrooz DC, Fox AM, Katz CM, Decker SH (2012a) Gang organization, offending, and victimization: a cross-national analysis. In: Esbensen FA, Maxson CL (eds) Youth gangs in international perspective. Springer, New York, pp 85–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Pyrooz DC, Sweeten G, Piquero AR (2012b) Continuity and change in gang membership and gang embeddedness. J Res Crime Delinq 50:239–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Pyrooz DC, Moule RK, Decker SH (2014) The contribution of gang membership to the victim–offender overlap. J Res Crime Delinq 51:315–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Pyrooz DC, Mcgloin JM, Decker SH (2017) Parenthood as a turning point in the life course for male and female gang members: a study of within-individual changes in gang membership and criminal behavior. Criminology 55(4):869–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Short JF (1985) The level of explanation problem in criminology. In: Meier RF (ed) Theoretical methods in criminology. Sage, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  84. Short JF (1998) The level of explanation problem revisited—the American Society of Criminology 1997 presidential address. Criminology 36:3–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Short JF, Strodtbeck FL (1965) Group process and gang delinquency. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  86. Shortland A, Varese F (2016) State-building, informal governance and organised crime: the case of somali piracy. Polit Stud 64:811–831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Singer JD, Willett JB (2003) Applied longitudinal data analysis: modeling change and event occurrence. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Steffensmeier D (1989) On the causes of “White-collar” crime: an assessment of Hirschi and Gottfredson’s claims. Criminology 27:345–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Sweeten G (2012) Scaling criminal offending. J Quant Criminol 28:533–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sweeten G, Pyrooz DC, Piquero AR (2013) Disengaging from gangs and desistance from crime. Justice Q 30:469–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Tajfel H (1978) Social Categorization, Social Identity and Social Comparison. Differentiation between Social Groups: Studies in the Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations 61–76.Google Scholar
  92. Tajfel H, Turner JC (1979) An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In: Austin WG, Worchel S (eds) The social psychology of intergroup relations. Brooks-Cole, Monterey, pp 33–47Google Scholar
  93. Taylor CS (1990) Dangerous society. Michigan State University Press, East LansingGoogle Scholar
  94. Thomas WI, Thomas DS (1928) The child in America. Alfred A, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  95. Thornberry TP (2003) Gangs and delinquency in developmental perspective. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  96. Thornberry TP, Huizinga D, Loeber R (2004) The causes and correlates studies: findings and policy implications. Juv Justice 9:3–19Google Scholar
  97. Thrasher FM (1927) The gang. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  98. Turner JC, Hogg MA, Oakes PJ, Reicher SD, Wetherell MS (1987) Rediscovering the social group: a self-categorization theory. Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  99. Vigil JD (1988) Group processes and street identity: adolescent Chicano gang members. Ethos 16:421–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Vigil J (1996) Street baptism: Chicano gang initiation. Hum Org 55:149–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Vigil EB (1999) The crusade for justice: Chicano militancy and the government’s war on dissent. University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  102. Webb VJ, Katz CM, Decker SH (2006) Assessing the validity of self-reports by gang members: results from the arrestee drug abuse monitoring program. Crime Delinq 52:232–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Weber M (1922) Economy and society: an outline of interpretive sociology. University of California Press, Berkeley (1978) Google Scholar
  104. Woo D, Giles H, Hogg MA, Goldman L (2015) Social psychology of gangs. In: Decker SH, Pyrooz DC (eds) The handbook of gangs. Wiley, West Sussex, pp 136–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Wood JL (2014) Understanding gang membership: the significance of group processes. Group Process Intergroup Relat 17:710–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Yablonsky L (1967) The violent gang. Pelican Book, MiddlesexGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations