Deviant Group Membership – Joining, Leaving, and Behavior in Criminal Groups

Raqota Berger


Each year across the United States hundreds of thousands of individuals become involved in deviant groups, the most common being street gangs. Joining a deviant group is associated with higher rates of criminal offending, serious bodily injury, victimization, and even death. This study collected data from 124 individuals that have joined criminally-based groups at some point in their lives. These groups were identified by respondents as street gangs, crews, biker gangs, prison gangs, drug gangs, and car gangs. Most members joined their groups as teenagers ( = 15), and most left their groups during their early adult years. The average time spent in their respective groups was 6 years. The most common reasons for joining their groups was for friendship, family, respect, money, and protection. All respondents were involved in some sort of harmful behaviors while in their groups, the most common being drug and alcohol use, graffiti, vandalism, theft, and violence. Most of the study’s respondents had already left their respective groups (n = 70, 56.5%). The top reasons for leaving involved maturity, family responsibilities, parental responsibilities, legal problems, and employment. Generally, members from all types of groups studied stated that the group and lifestyle had a significant impact on their life and development (77%). Out of the major deviant groups analyzed in the study, it appears that belonging to a street gang may have largest overall impact, t(113) = 2.32, sig. = .002. This study provides further insight and information that could be of use for those working across a range of professions dealing with youth violence, behavioral problems, mental health issues, and education.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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