Influential and Sociological Aspects of Gangs: What Makes Individuals Want to Join Gangs?

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Influential and Sociological Aspects of Gangs:
What Makes Individuals Want to Join Gangs?
Magdaline Mouratides

Sociology 100
Instructor Francisco Limόn
November 29, 2011

Abstract
The purpose of this research is to identify the sociological aspects and means in which individuals may use in order to affiliate themselves within a gang and their practices. The following research uses statistics and information given by police departments and the Department of Justice. I have searched for reasoning behind an individual’s decision to join a gang from a sociological perspective. It begins by defining a gang and what leads young individuals to a lifestyle and choice of joining these gangs. Sociological approaches are made in order to accompany these people’s decisions and to make sense of their judgment. Taking this information and research into consideration may direct future research on the aspects and decisions of social citizens in which influence them to join and be a part of a street gang.

What is a Gang?
In both, everyday life and the sociological world, the term “gang” is defined in many different ways; however, every altered definition is fairly similar or related to one another. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2011), a gang is defined as “a group of persons working to unlawful or antisocial ends; especially: a band of antisocial adolescents.” The U.S. Department of Justice’s survey analysts Egley and Major (2004), though, define a gang as a group of three or more individuals who involve themselves in criminal activity and identify one another with a shared and mutual name, sign, or symbol. On a governmental point of view, several states have passed their own gang-related legislation; this is including each state’s different definition of a street gang. The presence of these street gangs brings several anti-gang activities into play for every community, for example, curfews and home raids. According to Robert Walker (2011), writer for Gangs Or Us, gang members are those who conform to one or more of the visible gang traits. These traits include a shared group name, common symbols, tattoos, or graffiti, style of dress, geographic location or association in a group form on a consistent basis. It is easy to see that gangs and their members highly appreciate their symbols and strongly practice symbolic interactionism. Members of the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations (NAIGIA) believe that there is no untouched region by gangs in the United States. They also consider gangs to have a high effect on society at many levels; this increases citizens fear for safety, violence, and eventually increased cost to the economy ( NAIGIA 2005).

Sociological Approaches
There are up-to-date, contemporary explanations for the behaviors humans choose to act upon in which could be clarified as either a result of the individual’s choice or their overall response to environmental, or any other, forces. According to Michael K. Carlie (2002), there are those who believe in free will and those who could be categorized as determinists. Individuals who believe in free will are certain that people choose to behave the way they do; they are hedonistic, meaning they choose how to behave in order to establish pleasure over pain, and these individuals believe people are rational and may choose from a variety of choices in which how to behave. On the other hand, determinists believe the complete opposite. They feel as if human behavior is determined by forces outside of the individual’s control. Determinists believe that biological make-up, psychological states, and socio-cultural situations determine how the person will behave (Carlie 2002).

Along with these two approaches comes differential association. This assumes that criminal behavior and its techniques are a part of the learning process. The individual’s perception of law and crime determines how that person will behave in...
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