Eleven-Year Olds Joining Gangs
Date:  10-28-2013

How early prevention measures and community efforts can save children from making a lifetime mistake
Most people imagine gang members as being in the late-teen to early-twenties age range. But, according the National Institute of Justice and the Center for Disease Control most children join a gang between the ages of 11 and 15 years of age.

Changing Course: Preventing Youth From Joining Gangs presents research that concludes:

  • The large majority of kids who join a gang do so at a very early age — between 11 and 15 years old.

  • Joining a gang is part of a life course; therefore, it is important to understand the risk factors for children starting at birth.

  • Strong families are a major protective factor in preventing kids from joining gangs.

  • Very early prevention efforts — including programs focusing on low-income pregnant mothers and families with young children — show promising results.

  • Communities — not just classrooms — should be regarded as a valuable resource for reaching kids at risk of joining gangs.

  • Girls join gangs in large numbers; therefore, some prevention efforts should address gender-specific concerns.

    Learning to identify risk factors early is a key factor in preventing gang membership in later years. Changing Course: Preventing Youth From Joining Gangs found:

  • For kids aged 0-5, risk factors include hypervigilance to threat, cognitive impairment, insecure attachment to a caregiver and early aggressive behavior

  • For kids aged 6-12, risk factors include poor school performance, social information-processing deficits, and poor parental monitoring.
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