Children & Society

Cover image for Vol. 31 Issue 2

Edited By: Mary Jane Kehily, Heather Montgomery, Lindsay O'Dell and Rachel Thomson

Impact Factor: 0.808

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2015: 21/41 (Social Work)

Online ISSN: 1099-0860

Youth gangs in British cities: research informs the policy response

Three recently published Children & Society articles inform current policy debates surrounding the existence of youth gangs in several British cities:

Blame the Parents? Challenges for Parent-Focused Programmes for Families of Gang-Involved Young People
Judith Aldridge, Jon Shute, Robert Ralphs and Juanjo Medina
Volume 25, Issue 5, September 2011

Family Support as a Gang Reduction Measure
Jon Shute

Mentoring Siblings of Gang Members: A Template for Reaching Families of Gang Members
Juanjo Medina, Robert Ralphs and Judith Aldridge
Volume 26, Issue 1, March 2012

These complementary papers focus on the promise and limitations of a preventative "family intervention" approach to youth gangs. This approach was initially absent in policing-led policy responses and is now only belatedly and partially present. In the first paper, Judith Aldridge et al draw on qualitative interview data to identify the core perceptual barriers of gang-affected families to this form of intervention. In the second paper, Jon Shute suggests these barriers need to be taken as the starting point for selecting effective, evidence-based and fundamentally supportive interventions that resist a simplistic and misdirected discourse of "parental blame". In the third paper, Juanjo Medina et al report on the evaluation of a preventative "mentoring" scheme aimed at children "at risk" of joining gangs, and find that expectations of benefit outstrip the reality of a well-intentioned and well-received programme that suffered from critical problems regarding assessment, targeting, theory of change, and sustainability.

Taken together, the papers illustrate some of the problems of rapid policy-making in an era of worsening economic conditions and political instability; and debate the possibilities for progressive policy amidst media-led moral panic, uncritical policy transfer and coercive "first-choice" responses.