THE CASCADING EFFECTS OF ADOLESCENT GANG INVOLVEMENT ACROSS THE LIFE COURSE

Authors


  • Support for the Rochester Youth Development Study has been provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH63386), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (86-JN-CX-0007, 96-MU-FX-0014, 2004-MU-FX-0062), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA005512), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U49CE001295), and the National Science Foundation (SBR-9123299, SES-9123299). Work on this project also was aided by grants to the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University at Albany from NICHD (P30-HD32041) and NSF (SBR-9512290). Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the funding agencies. Direct correspondence to Marvin D. Krohn, Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611-7330 (e-mail: mkrohn@ufl.edu).

Abstract

The short-run deleterious effects of gang involvement during adolescence have been well researched. However, surprisingly little empirical attention has been devoted to understanding how gang involvement in adolescence influences life chances and criminal behavior in adulthood. Drawing on the life-course perspective, this study argues that gang involvement will lead to precocious transitions that, in turn, will have adverse consequences on the fulfillment of adulthood roles and statuses in the economic and family spheres. Moreover, problems fulfilling these conventional roles are hypothesized then to lead to sustained involvement in criminal behavior in adulthood. Using data from a sample of males from the Rochester Youth Development Study, results from structural equation models support the indirect link between gang membership and noncriminal and criminal outcomes in adulthood. Specifically, gang involvement leads to an increase in the number of precocious transitions experienced that result in both economic hardship and family problems in adulthood. These failures in the economic and family realms, in turn, contribute to involvement in street crime and/or arrest in adulthood. Implications for the criminal desistance process are discussed.

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