Forensic Psychology Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

criminal gangs are formed. The writer uses theories of conformity and the elements of family life that contribute to the willingness of a teenager to join a gang and perform illegal acts. There were six sources used to complete this paper.

Law enforcement officials are often faced with crimes that have been committed by gang members. The crimes can range from petty to extreme and can include everything from vandalism to murder. A teen girl who is almost abducted by a gang stands a chance to have serious harm committed to her because of some of the elements that cause gangs to form and to act once they are formed. There are many social theories that work in tandem when it comes to a gang and its members, and the combination of those theories provide the foundation that the gang is based in. Gangs act as one unit in many instances though they are individuals who commit the actual acts of crime. The girl who was almost abducted was the victim not only of the individuals who took part in the attempt, but also of the mindset that takes hold when gang members are together. The conformity theory, the as well as social theories contributed to the plight she found herself in and the crimes they would have been willing to commit against her had they been successful in the abduction.

For one to understand how this gang got to the point that it was willing to commit kidnap one must understand what a gang is and how it operates. One must also have a grasp of what types of youth join a gang and why. A gang, by legal definition is a group of three or more people. Those people interact with each other and they exclude those who are not members of the gang. Usually a gang has a color, a sign, and leaders. They may be marked individually with a common gang tattoo or they may decide that all members will wear a type of jewelry to signify their solidarity (What are gangs? (

Usually, gangs are participating in some kind of illegal activity, whether it be violent crime or drug dealing or both (What are gangs? ("

Most gang members are between 14 and 20 years old with the average age falling at 18. It has been reported that children as young as nine are recruited and children who are born to gang members are recruited for future membership as soon as they are born.

Gang initiation usually involves a violent beating or a "jump (What are gangs? (" The member is told that there is no way out of a gang once they have been initiated. If they try to get out, they are dead (What are gangs? ("

There are several social theories in operation when young men join gangs. The need to conform and not feeling like they fit in elsewhere is usually an important element in the decision to join a gang. In addition there are several theories that explain the willingness to commit crimes in the name of the gang that one would not commit on their own. It is important to understand why a young teen or young adult joins a gang. Research has shown that gang members join to fill their basic needs which usually are not being met at home and at school. They include:

respect, support, family, recognition, protection, identity, belonging, money control (What are gangs? ("

Kids who are from homes that lack structure join gangs to receive the structure that makes them feel safe. Others have reported joining gangs so that they are safe in their unsafe neighborhoods. They believe they have two choices, join a gang or be the enemy of a gang with no help.

It is important to remember that their gang is their family for most gang members, and this kind of bond is a hard one to break (What are gangs? ("

Gang members come from all walks of life including the wealthy areas of the nation (GANGS ( members are black, white, Hispanic and Asian. They are intelligent, average, and slow. They speak English, Spanish or other languages. They are different throughout the gang itself and the gangs are different throughout the nation but the type of youth that join gangs do share some common personality traits:

Lower impulse control marked tendency toward aggressiveness and physical prowess

Inadequate social skills

An enhanced need, or desire, for belonging

An enhanced need, or desire, for status and recognition boring, uninvolved lifestyle in which episodes of excitement are sought out and valued weak, or non-existent, attachment to adult control systems lack of structure to develop personal and social identify (GANGS ("

There are several theories about why youth join gangs and why gangs exist. Social bonding and control theories are often credited for the ability for a gang to exist and succeed in its purpose.

The social bonding theory and the control theory share many ideas. The theories believe that children who are lacking in support at home as well as supervision have a higher chance of turning to delinquency than children who do not have such issues. In addition children who turn to delinquency according to social bonding theorists do not feel close to their parents and they do not receive validation or affection at home (Social Bonding and Control Theories (

The Social Bonding Theory that applies to gang members has four components. They are attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. All of these can be found within one's gang and if these components are missing at home a gang becomes the replacement family (Social Bonding and Control Theories (

Social control theories believe that a formal control system is necessary for individual comfort. This can include legal systems but can also include joining a gang for the structure it provides (Social Bonding and Control Theories ( helps to explain the approximate 20-year-old that seemed to be able to order the other participants around in the abduction attempt. In addition the theory calls for informal systems of control within the group. In the instance of a gang this would be the leader, the sgt at arms and the other officers that are appointed by gang protocol to lead the gang.

The social theory called Opportunity and Strain believes that youth feels helpless and depressed because their goals are not yet within their control. They join gangs so that they can have some measure of success within the gang. The hopelessness is also an explanation for the acts the gang members are willing to commit. Once the slippery slide of hopelessness begins the gang members become willing to commit crimes at the command of their leaders. They do not feel they have a chance at success in the non-gang world and the admiration and respect they feel the gang members give them fill a void in their life (Social Bonding and Control Theories (

The Labeling Theory provides the explanation for the desensitized attitude authorities run into with gang members who have committed crimes against society in the name of their gang.

The theory generally states that if an individual conforms the current and harmful norms of the subculture in which they grow-up in and those norms vary from those of the larger society, they tend to go along with their subculture norms. Especially if no other alternatives are offered. Juveniles that grow-up around high crime and delinquent neighborhoods think of the two as normal, everyday aspect of their life. Therefore, they do not think they are doing anything wrong when they commit deviant actions. Several theorists believe the adolescents that engage in delinquent behaviors or join gangs is because if people think they are bad, that they might was…

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