Gangs are groups of children, adolescents and young adults who share a common identify and are involved in wrongful or delinquent activities. Most gang members tend to be adolescents or young adults, however, recent trends indicate that children are being recruited into gangs at a much earlier age some when they are in elementary school. Traditionally, gang activity has been confined to cities but gangs are no longer just in large cities, they also exist in smaller towns and rural areas. Gangs can include people of every gender, race, culture, and socioeconomic groups. Some children and adolescents are motivated to join a gang for a sense of connection or to define a new sense of who they are. Others are motivated by peer pressure, a need to protect themselves and their family, because a family member also is in a gang, or to make money. One of the worst effects of gang membership is the exposure to violence. Gang members may be pressured to commit a crime to become part of the gang. Consequences of gang membership may include exposure to drugs and alcohol, age-inappropriate sexual behavior, difficulty finding a job because of lack of education and work skills, removal from ones family, imprisonment and even death.
Risk factors that can lead children and adolescents to join a gang include
Growing up in an area with heavy gang activity.
A history of gang involvement in the family (family members who are current or former gang members).
A history of violence…