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Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 577–598 | Cite as

Validating Self-Nomination in Gang Research: Assessing Differences in Gang Embeddedness Across Non-, Current, and Former Gang Members

  • Scott H. Decker
  • David C. Pyrooz
  • Gary Sweeten
  • Richard K. MouleJr.
Original Paper

Abstract

Objective

The study of gang members is closely linked to the self-nomination method. It is timely to revisit the criterion validity of self-nomination, as recent theoretical and empirical advancements in gang disengagement necessitate further differentiating current from former gang members. This study assessed differences in gang embeddedness—a construct that taps individual immersion within deviant social networks—across three groups: current gang members, former gang members, and those individuals who have never joined a gang.

Methods

Data gathered in 2011 from a high-risk sample of 621 individuals in five cities were used to assess the validity of the self-nomination method. Standardized differences in a mixed graded response model of gang embeddedness were evaluated across the three statuses of gang membership.

Results

Self-nomination was strongly related to embeddedness in gangs, even after controlling for demographic, theoretical, and gang-related factors. The strongest predictor of gang embeddedness was self-nomination as a current or a former gang member, although current gang members maintained levels of gang embeddedness about one standard deviation greater than former gang members. Self-nomination was also the primary determinant of gang embeddedness for males, females, whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

Conclusion

The results of this study provide strong evidence in support of the use of self-nomination to differentiate between non-gang and gang members as well as current and former gang members, adding to a body of research demonstrating that self-nomination is a valid measure of gang membership.

Keywords

Gang membership Self-report Item response theory Embeddedness 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Funding from Google Ideas supported this project. We are grateful for their support. The content of this paper, however, is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of Google.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott H. Decker
    • 1
  • David C. Pyrooz
    • 2
  • Gary Sweeten
    • 1
  • Richard K. MouleJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal Justice and CriminologySam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA

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