A study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health illustrates the long-term detrimental effects of joining a gang in adolescence.
Researchers from the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington in Seattle used survey data to track 808 5th grade students who were attending 18 elementary schools in high-crime neighborhoods in 1985. About one-fifth of the students eventually reported joining a gang.
In adulthood, the students who joined a gang were nearly three times as likely as other students to report having committed a crime in the preceding year.
Gang membership also predicted lower rates of high school graduation, poorer mental and physical health, and higher rates of drug dependence at ages 27, 30, or 33. That was true even though many youths left gangs before entering adulthood.
A version of this article appeared in the April 02, 2014 edition of Education Week as Youth Behavior