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Young Lady And Gangs

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Young Ladies and Gangs

Why Do Female Youths Join Gangs? Female youths join street gangs on the basis of gender conflict, lack of family support and violence in their lives. Through adolescence young females have a much harder time than young males dealing with family, sexuality and the harsh reality of living in the urban ghetto. Young females who must endure these facets of life have little opportunity to succeed. Consequently, these young women turn to a replacement family, a place where they feel they are needed and loved and can escape reality, even if momentarily. This type of place is in the common street gang. Presently, inner city minorities are hopelessly discriminated and isolated from economic opportunity. Young females see society as having nothing to offer young minority women.

Neglected communities with high crime and a lack of resources force young females to turn to others in the same situation for support. Thus, they develop an exaggerated sense of belonging and gain excitement lacking in their lives (Chesney-Lind,2002p53). According to Thornberry there are three types of models that account for gang membership: selection model, social facilitation model and enhancement model. Female membership seems to fall into the selection model. The selection model states that gangs only recruit or associate with already delinquent persons (Dukes, Martinez, Stein 143). In 1994 "females accounted for 24% of all juvenile arrests" (Chesney-Lind,2002p11). Also, female gang members show higher levels of delinquency than non gang members (Curry,2003p12). However, they do not necessarily influence members once in the gang. Such as many researchers have found; once in a gang, female members are not expected to involve themselves in delinquency.

Recent estimates of female gang involvement have shown a tremendous increase in female membership. These increases have become great enough to turn researchers attention to female gang members. Studies have shown that ten to thirty eight percent of gang members are female (Miller,2003p431). Miller has recognized two different types of female gangs.

First, the independent female gang. The independent female gang is completely separate of the male gang. The females make their own set of rules and have decision making powers. If they were in male gangs, they would not have theses decisions at all, only the leaders would. Miller's studies have shown that less than ten percent of female gangs are independent (Chesney-Lind,2002p46).

Second, the auxiliary gang (Curry,2003p105). The auxiliary female gang is the most common and one in which the females are separate from the males in the gang, but are still apart of the whole gang. The males make all the decisions and essentially control the females. These type of female gang groups are, "an expression of the gender relations and boundaries of society" (Hunt,1997p150). According to Lauderback, Hansen, and Waldorf independent female gangs show they have less interest in status and reputation, but more interest in making money in a "bleak environment with no legitimate opportunities and lack of support" (Hunt,1997p150).

Gang members tend to have identity problems, no self esteem, little confidence in their academic abilities, low feeling of purpose in their life and weak attachments to their own ethnic group. This proves there is a complete lack of social bonds throughout their life. Psychosocial theory by Hirschi states that internal control is the mechanism for explaining conformity and delinquency. Socialization is shown to help individuals develop a strong conscience and sense of morality that prevents delinquent behavior. Therefore, detachment from socialization breeds delinquent behavior. Youths growing up in the urban ghetto lack this socialization, because of growing up in a one parent or no parent household where family relationships are absent and there is a failure to attend school. Consequently, these delinquents turn to other delinquents for support (Dukes, Martinez, Stein,1997p142-143). Gaining insight into the family lives of these female gang members will demonstrate the lack of socialization, gender bias and violence inherent in these youth's lives. Therefore, establishing why these female youths turn to street gangs but no where else.

A self identified study was conducted by Laidler and Hunt where sixty five female gang members were interviewed face to face. Of these sixty five females, fifty one were Hispanic, ten were African American and four were Samoan (1997p152). The African American females described their family home life as impoverished. Their fathers were reported as being unskilled laborers or unemployed. The females had little or no contact with their fathers, because the fathers were living on the streets addicted to drugs and alcohol. Only half of the mothers were employed in the service industry, the other half unemployed. Several of the females severed contact with their mothers, because of their severe substance abuse. One young female was quoted as saying, "I don't see my parents. They are into alcohol and drugs and they just don't care. Really they just don't care" (Hunt,1997p154).

Most of the females never finished high school, were unemployed and on public assistance or hustling for money. All, but one had a child living with them. The Latina females on the other hand described their family home life a little differently. Some reported having good relationships with their parents, however, their parents held very strict and traditional views of femininity. Fathers punished these females by hitting them, calling the police or kicking them out of the house. If the females didn't get kicked out they would end up running away. The mothers and fathers both worked semi skilled to unskilled jobs. Half of the females interviewed had nine years or fewer of education. Surprisingly, over 40% of the females interviewed had a primary income source (152-153). Females see joining a gang as protection from this type of violence in their family and from the men in their lives.

Many of these young females come from underclass urban societies where "violence against women is heightened by the nature of the urban street world" (qtd. in Miller 430). These young females see their mothers being abused by their fathers and most of the time are subject to the same abuse. Consequently, because of the cultural support for violence and power over women in these type of societies, females are more likely than boys to be sexually abused. Approximately 70% of victims of sexual abusive are female (Chesney-Lind,2002p25).



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