U.S. flag

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

Gender and Gang Membership: A Contrast of Rural and Urban Youth on Attitudes and Behavior

NCJ Number
Youth & Society Volume: 34 Issue: 4 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 415-440
Richard L. Dukes; Judith A. Stein
Date Published
June 2003
26 pages
This article discusses a study comparing rural and urban youth and relationships of gender and gang membership.
This study examined and contrasted several important dimensions reflecting social reintegration and behaviors in a large sample of adolescents in Colorado. They were contrasted on gang and nongang membership and rural and urban status. Ten major dependent variables connected with gang membership were examined. These variables were bonds with school, common drugs, hard drugs, gang-like activities, delinquent behavior, gun possession, possession of other weapons, fear of violence, injury, and self-derogation. It was hypothesized that although changing gender roles may have brought young men and young women closer together on all dependent variables, longstanding historical gaps in drug use and delinquency have not been closed completely. It was predicted that young women (as both gang members and nonmembers) would be less involved in drug use and delinquency than young men. It was also predicted that gang members would have worse scores on all variables than nonmembers would; and that overall differences between urban and rural areas would not favor either place. Results show that gang membership was lower for rural school districts than for urban districts. Rural respondents reported being worse off than their urban counterparts on bonding with school, use of common drugs, use of hard drugs, and possession of guns and other weapons (males). The only real advantage to living in a rural area was less fear of violence (except for male gang members). Gang membership had far stronger and negative associations with the 10 dependent variables than gender did, except for self-derogation. Young women were less likely than young men to join a gang. Once in a gang, these young women were less likely to be as delinquent or to use drugs at the same rate as male gang members. The findings that compare gang and nongang young women demonstrate that gang membership is associated with more negative effects for young women such as greater drug use and fear of violence and injuries. Further study is needed on the effects of gang membership on young women’s self-esteem. 5 tables, 49 references