Risk and protective factors associated with gang affiliation among high-risk youth: a public health approach
Background Gang violence accounted for 20% of homicides in large cities from 2002 to 2006. Preventing gang affiliation (ie, youth who either desire or have gang membership) might reduce subsequent gang activity. Previous research has focused on identifying risk factors for gang affiliation; however, little information is available on protective factors.Aim To identify risk and protective factors to provide more direction for gang violence prevention strategies.Methods The author analysed cross-sectional survey data from 4131 youths in grades 7, 9, 11 and 12. Data were collected in 2004 from students in a high-risk, urban public school district. Regression analyses were conducted to assess the association between gang affiliation and alcohol and drug use, delinquency, depressed mood, suicidal ideation, peer victimisation, parental monitoring and positive reinforcement, adult, family and peer support, coping skills, and school connectedness. Analyses were controlled for sex, race/ethnicity and age.Results An estimated 7% of youths were gang affiliated. Adjusting for all factors, gang affiliation was positively associated with engaging in any delinquent behaviours (prevalence OR: 2.07; 95% CI 1.18 to 3.64), frequent alcohol use (OR: 2.62; 95% CI 1.85 to 3.72) and frequent drug use (OR: 1.95; 95% CI 1.15 to 3.29). Gang affiliation was negatively associated with moderate levels of parental monitoring (OR: 0.67; 95% CI 0.54 to 0.85) and coping skills (OR: 0.54; 95% CI 0.42 to 0.71).Conclusions The findings suggest the potential benefit of increasing parental monitoring and coping skills and reducing delinquency, alcohol use and drug use to prevent gang affiliation.