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Gang Involvement and Delinquency in a Middle School Population

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2002 Pages: 275-292
Date Published
June 2002
18 pages

This study examined variation in self-reported gang involvement among middle school students operationalized as three distinct categories: no involvement, gang involvement but not membership, and gang membership; the relationship between self-reported gang involvement and officially recorded delinquency was also examined.


In cooperation with the St. Louis Public Schools, three middle schools were selected for the study on the basis of their proximity or distance from concentrations of gang homicides. Two of these three schools were in poor neighborhoods with considerable gang activity. The third was in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood with little or no gang activity. The survey on gang involvement was administered in the spring semester of the 1995-96 school year. Of the 533 respondents to the survey, 80 (15 percent) reported being either currently or formerly a gang member. Regarding gender, 18.1 percent of the boys and 11.5 percent of the girls reported ever being a gang member. Regarding race, only five white students (8.2 percent) identified themselves as ever having been gang members. The expected values for white students were too small to compute a chi-square that compared the prevalence of gang membership for whites and African-Americans. The overall percentage of African-American respondents who reported ever having been gang members was 15.9 percent, but at the predominantly white school, 28.6 percent of the African-Americans did so. The respondents were asked about their participation in a range of delinquent behaviors, including serious, minor, and drug offenses. The study found that the relationship between self-reported gang membership and delinquency found in other cities held for St. Louis. Since the survey was conducted in middle schools, the study concluded that the relationship between gang membership and delinquency emerges in early adolescence. Implications are drawn for research and policy. 4 tables and 40 references

Date Published: June 1, 2002