U.S. flag

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

How Do Youth Claiming Gang Membership Differ From Youth Who Claim Membership in Another Group, Such as a Crew, Clique, Posse, or Mob?

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 10 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2003 Pages: 13-23
Julie M. Amato; Dewey G. Cornell
Date Published
11 pages
This article explores the differences between youths claiming gang membership and youths claiming membership in another group (crew).
This study examined whether membership in a gang contributed to individual delinquency beyond association with delinquent peers. It also examined how youth claiming membership in gangs differed with respect to delinquent behavior and reasons for joining their groups; and gender differences in gang and group membership with respect to delinquent behavior and reasons for joining the gang or crew. Participants were 9th to 12th grade students from a single high school located in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse suburb of Washington, DC. A final sample of questionnaires by 1,375 students, 47.5 percent males and 52.5 percent females, was analyzed. Measures were of delinquent peers, delinquent behavior, and gang and group membership. Results show that gang membership contributed to individual delinquency above and beyond associating with delinquent peers. Gang members reported higher levels of violent behavior, larceny, vandalism, minor infractions, and selling drugs than crew members. Crew members reported higher levels of all subtypes of delinquency than non-affiliated youths. Association with delinquent peers was one of the strongest predictors of individual delinquent behavior. Students were less likely to admit being in a gang than they were to claim membership in some other group. Youths that claimed gang membership differed from youths in crews in reasons endorsed for joining their respective groups. Gang members reported that they were more likely to join their group to gain respect, for protection, because others in the family were in it, to make money, and to get drugs or alcohol. Crew members were more likely to join their group to be with friends. Girls that reported being in a gang or a group reported higher levels of delinquency than girls claiming no such affiliation. Girls in gangs and crews averaged more minor infractions, such as lying to parents and running away from home, than their male counterparts in each group. Boys were more likely to join their group to gain respect, girls joined to be with friends and for fun and excitement. 2 tables, 1 appendix, 20 references