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Common Pathway of Delinquency by Juveniles into Street Gangs

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As humans by nature we are social creatures. We form groups and become part of several distinct groups throughout the course of our lives. One very particular group that plays one of the most important roles in our lives are our primary groups, this includes our families and friends that take part in our day to day lives. For delinquent juveniles who decide to join street gangs, gangs become their primary groups because of the need to fill a void that they felt was missing from their lives. Typically, juveniles join gangs because of economic, cultural, and social influences, that provide money, power, excitement, and security.

One of the largest influences that propels a juvenile to participate in delinquent behavior and later join street gangs are economic security. Juvenile gang members usually come from lower classes, poverty, or broken homes in which parents lack the time and enough attention to parent their children because they work several jobs to feed their families. Due to economic insecurity these children not only face economic deprivation at home but at school as well, so they have low educational commitments and aspirations when it comes to seeking an education. Cultural influences such as cultural norms that support gang activity, social relationships, and the presence of gang activity in neighborhoods also plays a large part in influencing juveniles to join street gangs. Impoverished communities have a high presence of gang activity, because gangs provide protection from other rival gangs, so they are constantly accustomed to seeing gang violence and criminal activity in their neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods have families that have been invested in gang life and so their children are raised to take over when they are older, continuing the cycle of gang activity.

Youth can also decide to participate in delinquent behavior for social status. Juveniles have a tendency of committing offenses and engaging in criminal activity in the company of other youths. The need to be revered in your neighborhood, the prestige amongst your peers, and high commitments to other delinquent peers are large influences that youth take into consideration when joining a street gang. When you do not know the process, you’re cast aside, and for youths not being part of a social group that plays a large influence in their communities, provides excitement and security is not a risk they decide to take.

Throughout history, we have always formed social groups due to economic, cultural, and social influences. As adolescents, our families and friends are the most influential people in our lives. Sometimes we choose people uplift us and change us for the better and sometimes we find those who engage in delinquent behaviors and we choose to join them. Other times, life happens, and we are forced to make decisions at a young age, and most of the time, they are not the correct decisions.


  1. Delaney, T. (2014). What Is a Street Gang? In American Street Gangs (2nd ed., pp. 1-33). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  2. Lab, S. P., Williams, M. R., Holcomb, J. E., Burek, M. W., King, W. R., & Buerger, M. E. (2016). The Juvenile Justice System. In Criminal Justice: The Essentials (4th ed., pp. 184-221). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  3. Talks, T., & Lopez, G. (2018, August 29). I was an MS-13 gang member. Here’s how I got out. Retrieved June 11, 2019, from
  4. Zastrow, C. (2017). Crime, Juvenile Delinquency, and Correctional Services. In Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People (12th ed., pp. 309-311). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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