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Gangs and Your Child

About Gangs A gang is a group of (usually young) people who claim some territory (called turf) and use . . .

About Gangs

A gang is a group of (usually young) people who claim some territory (called turf) and use it to make money. Gangs make money through illegal activities such as drug trafficking and extortion.

Gangs recruit most heavily in public schools. They may recruit children as young as nine, knowing that the judicial system is more lenient on younger children and that, thus, younger members can be sacrificed on riskier jobs for the gang.

Gangs tend to mark their members and their territories. Gang members will wear certain colors, symbols, or tattoos to show their affiliations. Gangs will also mark and destroy property to claim it and to show boundaries to other gangs. When a person wearing the signs of one gang enters the territory of another, bloodshed is not uncommon.

Why Youth Join Gangs

The social and economic environments of many neighborhoods lure young people into gangs.

  • Young people will join to feel accepted. Gangs can provide a surrogate family to youth who may feel that they lack a home.
  • They also join when they feel unsafe; gangs offer a sense of protection to their members. Similarly, gangs will intimidate young people into joining, making them feel unsafe unless they join.
  • Finally, youth who feel that their economic futures are bleak will join gangs for money. Gangs are often seen as money makers—they deal in the highly profitable drug trade, which is often accompanied by violence.

What You Can Do

You can reduce the risk that your child will join a gang. Teaching children about the risks of gang membership—especially the violence—is essential. Also be sure to emphasize the fact that the supposed upsides are false; most gang members do not make more than the minimum wage, and gang members are at greater risk of violence, not less. Also be sure that your child is involved in positive activities, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, sports programs, or hobby clubs. By providing information and care, you can greatly reduce the risk that your child will join a gang.

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