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    This research is supported under Award 94-IJ-CX-0058 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. We thank Mac Klein, Bob Bursik, and the anonymous reviewers from Criminology for their constructive comments on earlier drafts of this article.

  • Dana Peterson is a Criminal Justice Doctoral Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her current research interests include youth violence, gangs, families and delinquency, and sex and gender issues in crime. She has co-authored articles on these topics in Juvenile and Family Court Journal and Criminal Justice Review, and chapters in The Eurogang Paradox: Street Gangs and Youth Groups in the U.S. and Europe and NIJ Report—Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research (forthcoming).

  • Jody Miller is Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is currently completing a study of the commercial sex industry in Sri Lanka funded by a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award. She is a member of the National Consortium on Violence Research, through which she is currently researching (with Norman White) violence against urban African-American adolescent girls. She has published research on women's involvement in street crime in Criminology, The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Social Problems and a book on young women and gangs, One of the Guys: Girls, Gangs, and Gender, published by Oxford University Press.

  • Finn-Aage Esbsensen is a Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is currently the Principal Investigator of the NIJ-funded National Evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program and is serving as Editor of Justice Quarterly. His publications include a textbook, Criminology: Explaining Crime and Its Context, 4th edition (with Stephen E. Brown and Gilbert Geis), and recent Journal articles that have appeared in Criminology, Justice Quarterly, Crime and Delinquency, Evaluation Review, Youth and Society, The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Quantitative Criminology.


Sociology of organizations scholars have long recognized sex and gender as key features shaping interactional dynamics within groups, and several recent qualitative studies suggest that sex composition of gangs helps shape the gang experience for both boys and girls. Quantitatively, we add to this scant literature by testing competing hypotheses from the theories of Kanter, Blau, and Blalock, and examining whether youth gangs' sex composition influences members' characterizations of their gangs and their individual participation in delinquency. Our findings suggest that sex composition, independent of sex itself, is important in shaping the norms and activities of gangs and their members.