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Determinants of gang affiliation in Singaporean youth offenders: social and familial factors

Chi Meng Chu (Centre for Research on Rehabilitation and Protection, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore. AND Clinical and Forensic Psychology Branch, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore.)
Michael Daffern (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. AND Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Melbourne, Australia.)
Stuart Thomas (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. AND School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.)
Ang Yaming (Freelance researcher, formerly Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore)
Mavis Long (Clinical and Forensic Psychology Branch, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore)
Kate O'Brien (School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 12 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

Gang affiliation in youth is associated with increased criminal recidivism and an exaggeration of various criminogenic needs; affiliation also meets a variety of youth's personal and social needs. The purpose of this paper is to describe a study of the self-reported reasons for joining and leaving gangs, as well as the difficulties faced by Singaporean youth offenders in leaving youth gangs; it also explores the relationship between gang affiliation and family connectedness, educational attainment and early exposure to gangs.

Design/methodology/approach

This prospective study involved structured interviews and administration of questionnaires with 168 youth offenders in Singapore. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to examine the research questions.

Findings

Gang-affiliated youth cited a desire to establish and maintain friendships as their primary reasons for joining a gang. Youth who left their gang reported maturing beyond this need and the activities of their gang, particularly in light of the deleterious impact of their gang-related activities on familial relationships and employment and financial status. Early exposure to gangs through family and neighborhood influences, and poor educational engagement increased the likelihood that youth would join a gang.

Practical implications

This study highlights the need for clinicians and other service providers to better understand the universal human needs that are met through gang affiliation and the correlates of affiliation.

Originality/value

Few studies have directly examined the factors relating to gang affiliation in a non-western context; this study may be relevant to professionals working in the juvenile justice and offender rehabilitation arenas.

Keywords

Citation

Chu, C.M., Daffern, M., Thomas, S., Yaming, A., Long, M. and O'Brien, K. (2015), "Determinants of gang affiliation in Singaporean youth offenders: social and familial factors", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 19-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-11-2013-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited