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Impact of Gang Membership on Mental Health Symptoms, Behavior Problems and Antisocial Criminality of Incarcerated Young Men

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2005 Pages: 25-36
Kevin Corcoran; Alex Washington; Nancy Meyers
Date Published
12 pages
This study compared the mental health symptoms, behavior problems, and antisocial criminality of gang members and nongang members drawn from a sample of incarcerated young men.
Crime by gangs remains a major public concern in America, although evidence suggests that gang membership has been in decline since the late 1990s. The current study probed the criminality and mental health problems of gang members by comparing gang members and nongang members on mental health symptoms, behavior problems, and antisocial criminality. Participants were 83 incarcerated youth who received $2 for completing a series of survey instruments measuring mental health symptomatology, social problems, anxiety, depression, aggressiveness, self-destruction, antisocial behavior, and withdrawal. Results of statistical analyses revealed greater mental health symptoms among gang members, as well as more external behavior problems including delinquency and self-destructiveness. Gang members also reported more antisocial criminality during the 12 months prior to incarceration. When mental health symptoms were controlled, gang members resembled nongang members on all variables except antisocial criminality variables, indicating that mental health services were important to prison release plans for gang members. However, mental health services are unlikely to reduce antisocial criminality among gang members and should therefore not be viewed as a substitute for addressing the antisocial criminality of gang members. Tables, references