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Girls and Gangs (From Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice: Original Feminist Readings, P 44-59, 2001, Claire Renzetti and Lynne Goodstein, eds. -- See NCJ-197570)

NCJ Number
Rodney K. Brunson; Jody Miller
Date Published
This chapter identifies the factors that have led to an increase in girls' involvement in gangs and profiles girls' gang activity and the "double standards" imposed on girl gang members.
Feminist scholars have made progress in improving knowledge of female gang involve from young women's perspectives. Recent evidence suggests that young women are more involved in gangs than previously believed, and their participation and experiences in gangs are much more varied than was thought. Recent studies with juvenile populations estimate that young women compose 20 to 46 percent of gang members; in urban areas, upwards of one-fifth of girls report having gang affiliations. The family has long been considered crucial for understanding delinquency and gang behavior among girls. Family problems, such as weak supervision, lack of attachment to parents, the gang involvement of other family members, family violence, and drug and alcohol abuse by family members have all been suggested as contributors to the likelihood that girls will join gangs. The authors' research findings, which compared gang and nongang girls, provide additional evidence of the relationship between family violence, other victimization, and gang involvement. Although girl gang members tend to be more involved in antisocial and delinquent activities than nongang girls and nongang boys, they are not as involved in serious crimes as often as male gang members. Status hierarchies in the mixed-gender gangs the authors examined were male-dominated. Leadership was almost exclusively male, and status in the gang was related to characteristically masculine traits. Girls tended to be excluded from gang activities that would confer status in gang membership. The policy response to the problem of girl gang membership should take into account the social, economic, and personal contexts that influence gang participation and gang crime. Punitive responses are not likely to be effective in changing behavior. 5 notes, 66 references, and 3 discussion questions