The main question that we deal with, as the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, is that of figuring out how to keep kids from joining gangs. Now for us to be able to deal with this question properly, we have to start by gaining an understanding of the types of kids who are likely to join the gangs. Only then can we know where (and how) we should focus our attention, when trying to keep kids from joining the gangs in California.
Now one group of kids who tend to join gangs in California is that of those who come from (highly) dysfunctional families. I specifically make reference to highly dysfunctional families because I realize that there is a level of dysfunction in (almost) all families. But then, there are certain families where the level of dysfunction is too high: families where, for instance, you have the parents fighting openly and exchanging verbal abuses right in front of the kids. The kids develop insecurities, which they often decide to resolve by joining gangs – under a scheme where the gangs present themselves as alternative ‘families’ for the kids.
The second group of kids who tend to join gangs in California is that of those who have been subjected to abuse as they grew up. These are, for instance, kids who been so much beaten up by their parents as they grew up that they have developed inner anger issues. The anger then turns into rebellion against the society: which is actualized by way of joining gangs (where the kids are sure to find other kids with similar anger issues).
The third group of kids who tend to join gangs in California is that of those who are struggling with their studies. Teachers tend to be rather hard on these kids – often telling them things like that they won’t amount to much in life, they are doomed to fail, they are stupid… and so on. The kids then lose hope. And they are then inclined to join the gangs, where they find a sense of acceptance.