Thus, the results of these three studies point to the applicability of the selection theories of gang entry, before youths became gang members they already had marked antisocial behavior and adequately predicted later gang entry. Moreover, the number of peer, family, and neighborhood factors was found to be significant predictors of future gang entry, thus it could be true that contextual factors may also promote gang entry. Researches had found that the effect of selection theory is significant in the decision to join gangs.
Youth gangs are popular because of a number of reasons; Esbensen and colleagues (2001) reported that sense of isolation drives youth to become members of gangs, at the same time, the need for protection from an abusive parent or a highly violent neighborhood also influences the participant into gaining membership from gangs. Teenagers are especially susceptible to gangs because in a troubled teens mind, gangs offer a sense of identity which they could not have on their own.
Moreover, this sense of identity implies power, authority and fear, youths who join gangs often do not have any power or authority and belonging to a gang answers that need. At the same time, having a gang also assures the teenager that he/she has a loyal support group who shares his/her frustrations and fears and can be very attractive to teens who are confused, conflicted and lost. Both male and female adolescents had similar reasons for joining gangs such as family and friends are currently gang members, seeking protection and fun, and being active.
Moreover, experiencing being a gang member affected negatively the well-being of the self-confessed gang members such as risk of delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and unemployment (Hill, et. al, 2004). Spergel (1995) have reported that youths are drawn to join gangs due to their desire for recognition, status, safety, power, money, and excitement. At the same time, youths seek identity and self-esteem from the gang they join and more often than not, this helps them become more active and energetic for her peer.
According to researchers, gang members always try to find the identity and stability of the gang as a means of ensuring that it will exist even with very few members. Moreover, gang members quickly embrace the customs that are related to the attachment and identification of gangs. On the other hand, the same group feels that they are marginalized in many ways before they enter gangs but it is a reality that gang members may come from poor families and have low socioeconomic status, segregation, and socialization.
For Esbensen (2000) he concluded that gang, members are not satisfied with their family systems and that their identity is not tied to their families and schools. Aside from the predisposition to antisocial behavior, risk factors also abound as predictors of gang membership this include being associated with other gang members, being in a neighborhood that has a number of gangs, school failure, delinquency, vandalism and drug abuse (Spergel, 1995).
In a similar study, Hill and colleagues (2004) reported that spending quality time with parents did not predict gang membership, at the same time; low religious attendance also was not a significant predictor. It was found that the strongest predictors of gang involvement was the presence and access to Marijuana in the area, the number of youths with gang involvement , having a single parent, have a learning disability and marijuana use. For example, a youth who has a learning disability is almost 4 times more likely to join a gang than those who are not.
Winfree (1996) had reported that family factors may have influenced the desire to join gangs. This includes not living with intact families, left at home most of the night and no support from father. However, parent characteristics such as educational attainment of parents, reaction to gang membership and support of parents were not associated with later gang behavior and activity. Lastly, it was found that peers also influence the decision to join gangs especially if one is already a member.
This study also reports that the best friends exists in the same gang, the higher the likelihood of committing violence (Esbensen, 2001). The presented literature review had indicated that gang membership has been the focus of studies and researches even in the early days of American society. As such, gangs and gang membership has to be studied in a more diversified perspective not just using a single lens. The factors that lead youth to join gangs are varied and come from different social and personal sources, such that it is important to be able to clearly identify what reasons youths have for joining gangs.