U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Gender Dynamics in Youth Gangs: A Comparison of Males' and Females' Accounts

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2000 Pages: 419-448
Date Published
September 2000
30 pages

Based on interviews with 58 gang members in St. Louis, Missouri, the authors compared male and female perspectives on gender dynamics in street gangs.


The sample included 31 young men and 27 young women who ranged in age from 12 to 20 years, with most between 14 and 17 years. Interviewing began in the spring of 1997 and was completed in early 1998. All respondents were identified as gang members through self-nomination. They were asked questions about gang membership and structure, delinquent activities, and reasons for becoming involved in gangs. Gangs were found to be largely male-dominated in terms of structure, hierarchy, and activities. Young men's depictions of girls appeared to be shaped by the number of females in their groups. Young men who characterized their gangs as all-male held the most stereotypical and most derogatory views of girls, while young men in mixed-gender gangs appeared to have a wider variety of interactions with girls and a broader conceptualization of the role of girls in gangs. In many ways, male and female accounts of young women's role in mixed-gender gangs were quite similar, with one notable exception--young men often held exploitative views of their sexual interactions with girls in gangs. The authors believe that variations in juvenile gangs are important because these variations shape the contexts in which young women in and around gangs must negotiate. They emphasize the importance of organizational features of juvenile gangs and the strength of male peer dynamics in maintaining gender hierarchies and supporting the exploitation of young women. 76 references and 2 tables

Date Published: September 1, 2000