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Why Females Join Gangs Female gang involvement has been on the rise throughout the decades. Deciding to become a gang member is a huge step for any girl or woman to take. There is no one specific reason, but instead several different motivating factors for females to join gangs. These factors include economic stresses, family stress, and a need to belong.
Gender differences play a role in the urban environment and female victimization, young females turns to gangs in response to family and community violence victimization rather than a learned normalized behavior.
Understanding the easons why females Join gangs in the first place will cause a better understanding of female gang involvement as a whole. This paper will discuss the contextual factors that motivate girls to Join a gang; the extent of the girls’ criminal behavior; and the physical, sexual, and psychological abuses the girls experience from other gang members.
“Female gang membership has increased in the recent years, with 29. 9% of girls claiming membership in high risk, high crime neighborhoods in 2008, and leading the National Counsel on Crime and Delinquency to rank young females as the fastest rowing offenders in national unevenly Justice population in 2009. Studies show the reason for female membership in gangs is due to pro-violent attitudes, physical abuse, abandonment and emotional abuse by caretakers. Gang involvement maybe a learned behavior situated in the context of childhood exposures to violence”.
In the inner cities of America a Job shortage took place in the eighties and early nineties, it was hard for the youths to find employment.
This led to the establishment of a very productive underground economy. According to Moore, the flourishing underground economy attracted gangs and increased gang membership. With the loss of Jobs and changes to the welfare system made it very difficult for inner city members to provide for their families. This was a hard time for women especially pregnant women. For these individuals gangs were seen as positive organizations that benefited the struggling community. According to Moore, gangs offered resources and protection to community members, more specifically females who feared their neighborhood.
The struggling economy and inability to find a Job made gang life very attractive to both males and females. Economic stress often translated into a strain on family life. It may seem unreal that young girls would put themselves in a situation that involves such a high rate of risk. Most female gang involvement come from broken homes, where they have previously been a victim of a crime. In 1998, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency performed a study on young girls in the California juvenile Justice system to gain information on victimization before becoming a juvenile offender.
Out of all the females interviewed 92% said that they had been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually before becoming a Juvenile offender. Although a majority of girls are abused before Joining a gang, there are also many hat participate in gang activities for other reasons. “There are four elements discussed by Archer and Grascia (2006) that are typical characteristics of individuals who are most likely to become delinquent and then possibly become part of a gang. The four elements include attachment to family, peers, commitment to society, involvement in traditional activities such as going to school or work and belief in moral values.
The following factors affecting female gang membership branch off these four key elements”. A relationship a young women has with friends and male gang members seems to e the greatest factor of female gang involvement. Protection that membership offer women may be another reason why females become part of gangs. Young women value this protection because they may feel threatened by rival gang members or other non-gang men in the environment (Miller, 1998). By entering a gang females feel that they will gain respect from others such as their parents and rival peers.
In the oxford reading a finding by Wang, stated that whereas more males Join gangs to make money, females are more likely to become associated with a gang for emotional support. This statement was contradicted by Walker-Barnes and Mason in 001, who found that an influence for females to Join a gang is the possibility of committing illegal activities that could lead to money-making opportunities. It was also found that the idea of these activities as exciting and providing adventure could be another factor for influencing females to affiliate with gangs Walker-Barnes & Mason.
The study that Walker-Barnes and Mason did found that many of the female reported that belonging to a gang made them feel important and good about themselves, built up their self-confidence, and allowed them to experience what it is like to be part of something important. Female gang members tries to make the gang their replacement family and often times see gang membership as fun. Some females even Join gangs for friendship or fun. Females may also Join gangs to escape from hostile home environments caused by poverty, abuse, or low parental involvement.
A lot of female gang members has been sexually abused at home and may Join gangs to obtain protection from the abusive families. Female gang members wants attention from their parents, Joining a gangs is a way for them to gain attention even if its in a negative way. Adverse childhood experiences affect gang involvement. The violence and abuses that female gang members encounter inside their home, in the of interparental violence or physical or sexual childhood abuse and outside the home, in a form of community gang violence has showed to be a pervasive and inescapable context.
Many of the women explicitly reflected upon a casual relationship between early childhood abuse or neglect experiences and gang membership Another point made is some females may think that becoming a member of a gang will actually give them the opportunity to demonstrate violent behavioral actions they may have learned from home according to Archer& Grascia. For example, female gang members are more likely than male gang members to have come from a home that contained drug use and family members that have been arrested for crimes according to Moore.
A study was done on 15 young females that lives in a residential treatment, they where interviewed about gang involvement. “The structure of the interview was developed from Quicker’s social structural view of female Juvenile delinquency, which proposes the examination of macro level and exolevel issues as well as micro level issues”. One out of the 15 who were interviewed stated Basically, I was born into the gang. My mother and stepfather were leaders in the gang, and I was always there. For my first birthday I got a tattoo on my arm that says “Crips. I’ll be one of them till I die. Most girls arent born into the gang, usually they start hangin’ with us at around nine or 10. Another was interviewed she was asked her reason for Joining a gang. She replied, with two answers belonging to a family and the feeling of power. “My gang is my family; I’m accepted, and I know I can always count on them. My family (gang) makes me feel like I’m a somebody. When we’re hanging, people respect me”. Conflict with and ambivalence toward the family of origin are aspects of normal adolescent development according to Erikson and Molidor. The teenager feels tense and anxious in the presence of the parents and feels safe only when apart from them. Instead of admitting any dependence and love, they take an attitude that is exactly the opposite” according to Freud. The healthy teenager struggles with the issues surrounding individuation and separation and slowly develops a more individual sense of self apart from the family. Becoming a young female teenager in America can be a characteristic that nfluences young females to become apart of a gang.
According to Wang the want or/ and need of experiencing adult roles, the security of having a specific status and identity, and the innate response to defy parents and/or people in authority may be seen as potentially influencing a young women into a gang. Most have been victims of violence and sexual abuse from parents and relatives since early childhood. They have been victims of poor economic conditions and the cycle of poverty and of overburdened and understaffed school systems that have failed to recognize them as at risk.