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.