Gang Membership: The Psychological Evidence

  • Emma Alleyne
  • Jane L. Wood


There is a growth in literature on the presence of gangs in metropolitan areas across the UK (e.g., Bennett and Holloway 2004; Sharp et al. 2006). To date, gang research has been primarily criminological and sociological in nature (Wood and Alleyne 2010), yet psychological findings have highlighted the individual differences that distinguish gang and nongang youth with similar social and environmental circumstances. Also, there is an abundance of psychological literature examining group processes, and considering that the gang is in fact, a group phenomenon, the literature linking group psychology and gangs is scant. The purpose of this chapter is to shed light on the psychological group processes that underpin gang membership and gang-related crime by presenting recent findings from research conducted in the UK. These findings, grounded within the framework of interactional theory, cover four main themes (1) the psychological effects of neighborhood gangs, (2) gang structure and intragroup processes, (3) the role of antiauthority attitudes in gangs, and (4) the role of psychology in gang-related behaviors. These four themes are discussed in the context of theory development and further study.


Moral Disengagement Interactional Theory Social Learning Theory Gang Member Informal Social Control 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Alleyne
    • 1
  • Jane L. Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Psychology, Keynes CollegeUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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