Understanding street gang membership

Tonks, Sarah Louise (2019). Understanding street gang membership. University of Birmingham. Foren.Psy.D.

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Over the last thirty years, academics have focused attention on the ambiguity surrounding what constitutes a gang as well as the engagement factors for joining a street gang. Whilst the rehabilitation of street gang offenders and understanding the reasons to desist from this lifestyle is paramount to counteract the effects of gang membership, less attention has been given to these areas.

The first chapter discusses some of the definitional issues that have arisen from exploring gang phenomenon and a historical account of the theories that underpin gang membership. The second chapter introduces the first systematic literature review to have been undertaken on gang disengagement in order to understand the factors which increase the likelihood that an individual will leave a gang. This review highlighted that there is not one definitive reason as to why individuals choose to leave and a range of factors are detailed.

An empirical project is presented in Chapter 3; with the first study focusing on the impact two generalised violent offender behaviour programmes (RESOLVE and Self Change Programme; SCP) had on both adult violent gang and adult violent non-gang offenders. Findings suggested that both sets of RESOLVE participants were found to have made treatment gains for impulsivity, anger and aggression, and treatment readiness. A statistically significant difference was observed for vengeful thinking, with gang participants showing a greater change in scores. SCP data showed statistically significant differences post treatment with lower levels of impulsivity, anger, vengeful thinking and beliefs supportive of aggression and an increase in treatment readiness. For non-gang participants, statistically significant differences were found post treatment for impulsivity and aggression. No significant interaction was observed between offender typologies, suggesting that the two groups have similar presentations. The second study explored the views of gang members who had completed either of the programmes mentioned in order to gain further insight into gang membership. Three major themes emerged which centred on what a street gang is; motivators to join; and motivators to disengage. The results are discussed with reference to current practice, the limitations, and recommendations for further research.

Chapter 4 presents a critical analysis of the Psychological Inventory for Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS, Walters, 1990). Although the PICTS continues to be used for research purposes and within forensic practice, the review found that caution should be exercised in its use and preferably in conjunction with other measures. This was partially due to the need for further independent research being needed across different cultural samples and the reported reliability and validity.

The thesis conclusions are presented in Chapter 5 with reference made to the need for further research into gang membership, especially within the UK.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.
Licence: All rights reserved All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/9965


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