The Sex Composition of Groups and Youths’ Delinquency: A Comparison of Gang and Nongang Peer Groups

  • Dana Peterson
  • Dena C. Carson


Sex composition of gangs has been shown in prior research to be related to the delinquent involvement of their members, such that the delinquency of girls in sex-balanced gangs is suppressed by boys in those gangs, who seek to maintain their dominant standing by excluding females from the activities that confer status in the gang. Meanwhile, girls in majority-male gangs, because of their small numbers, pose little threat to boys’ status and are, therefore, free to deviate, resulting in delinquency levels that are similar to males in those gangs and greater than those of girls in other gangs. To the extent that gender dynamics of the gang mirror those of larger society, we might expect to see these same patterns replicated in nongang peer groups. It has also been argued, though, that both gender oppression and posturing for status are amplified in the gang setting. Using self-report data from a multisite longitudinal study of 3,820 youths in the USA, this study examines the extent to which youths in gang and nongang peer groups exhibit the same or different patterns of delinquency by group sex composition. Findings from this study contribute to the body of knowledge about what does or does not differentiate youth gangs from other groups.


Violent Crime Group Type Property Crime Gang Member Generic Perspective 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity at AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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