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Social Correlates and Delinquency. Juvenile Gangs. History of Gangs in America. American society has a long history of violent gang activity Boston Tea Party! Vigilante groups on the frontier Rioting farmers Racial riots

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history of gangs in america
History of Gangs in America
  • American society has a long history of violent gang activity
    • Boston Tea Party!
    • Vigilante groups on the frontier
    • Rioting farmers
    • Racial riots
  • “Youth” gangs also have a long history, though not always equated with delinquency
defining gang
Defining “Gang”
  • Problem with lack of consistent definition
  • Erikson and Jensen’s implied definition:
    • 2 or more youth engaged in delinquent behavior
  • Walter Miller’s extended definition
    • Conducted interviews with 445 staff members in over 160 youth service agencies in 24 major cities
    • Asked them, “What is your conception of a gang?”
    • On bases of these responses, developed definition and list of key characteristics (see next slide)
miller s characteristics and definition of a gang
Miller’s Characteristics and Definition of a Gang
  • Characteristics:
    • Organization
    • Identifiable leadership
    • Identification with a territory
    • Continuous association
    • Specific purpose
    • Engaging in illegal activity
  • Definition (incorporating above):

“A youth gang is a self-formed association of peers bound together by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership, well developed lines of authority, and other organizational features, who act in concert to achieve a specific purpose or purposes which generally include the conduct of illegal activity and control over a particular territory, facility, or type of enterprise.”

types of gangs
Types of Gangs
  • Gangs can be categorized on several dimensions:
    • Social Class (e.g., lower class vs. middle class gangs)
    • Type of activity:
      • Cloward and Ohlin’s Typology
        • Criminal gangs
        • Conflict gangs
        • Retreatist gangs
      • Jeffrey Fagan’s Typology
        • Social Gangs (alcohol and drugs)
        • Party Gangs (heavy drug use, some vandalism)
        • Serious Delinquent Gangs (serious delinquency; avoids drug use)
    • Ethnic composition
    • Type of organization (see next slide)
lewis yablonsky s typology
Lewis Yablonsky’s Typology
  • Yablonsky identified 3 types of gangs, based on the sophistication of their organization
    • Institutionalized Gang
      • Usually very large gangs which have become intricately involved in their communities
      • Often entail a “federation” of several local gangs
      • Examples include Black P. Stone Nation, Vice Lords and possibly Crips, and Bloods
    • Organized Club
      • Organized around delinquency, but do not have the scale or organization of institutionalized gangs
    • Near Group (see next page)
yablonsky s near group
Yablonsky’s “Near Group”
  • According to Yablonsky, the “near group” is the most common type of gang
  • 7 characteristics of near groups:
    • Diffuse role orientation
    • Limited cohesion
    • Impermanence
    • Minimal consensus of norms
    • Shifting membership
    • Disturbed leadership
    • Limited definition of membership expectation
  • 3 levels of membership
    • Leaders
    • Affiliators
    • Peripheral Members
non sociological theories of gang formation
Non-Sociological Theories of Gang Formation
  • Early theories--that there was a natural propensity toward gang formation among boys
  • Anthropological view--gangs fulfill deep-seated needs for tribal group process such as that which sustained our ancestors over the millenia
  • Psychological view--gangs serve as an outlet for psychologically diseased youth
  • Rational choice view--gangs provide opportunities to realize goals. Such goals include financial gain, protection, and social support.
sociological theories of gang formation
Sociological Theories of Gang Formation
  • Frederick Thrasher--gangs arise out of spontaneous play groups
  • Tannenbaum--gangs fill a need for primary group involvement
  • Review general theories of Cloward and Ohlin, Cohen, Shaw and McKay
extent of gang delinquency
Extent of Gang Delinquency
  • Erikson and Jensen study
  • Miller Study