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Criminal thinking and gang affiliation: antecedents and consequences

Glenn D. Walters (Department of Criminal Justice, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 22 July 2020

Issue publication date: 22 July 2021

307

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the relationship between gang affiliation and criminal thinking.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of 1,354 youth (1,170 males, 184 females) from the Pathways to Desistance Study served as participants in this study, and a causal mediation path analysis was performed on proactive and reactive criminal thinking, gang affiliation and subsequent offending.

Findings

Using three waves of data, it was determined that the pathway running from reactive criminal thinking to gang affiliation to proactive criminal thinking was significant, whereas the pathway running from proactive criminal thinking to gang affiliation to reactive criminal thinking was not. A four-wave model, in which violent and income offending were appended to the three-wave model, disclosed similar results.

Practical implications

Two separate targets for intervention with youth at risk for gang involvement: proactive and reactive criminal thinking. The impulsive, irresponsible, reckless and disinhibited nature of reactive criminal thinking may best be managed with a secondary prevention approach and cognitive-behavioral skills training; the planned, cold, calculating and amoral nature of proactive criminal thinking may best be managed with a tertiary prevention approach and moral retraining. Trauma therapy may be of assistance to youth who have been victimized over the course of their gang experience.

Originality/value

These findings reveal evidence of a gang selection effect that is independent of the well-documented peer selection effect, in which reactive criminal thinking led to gang affiliation in youthful offenders, particularly non-White offenders, and a gang influence effect, independent of the frequently observed peer selection effect, in which gang affiliation contributed to a rise in proactive criminal thinking.

Keywords

Citation

Walters, G.D. (2021), "Criminal thinking and gang affiliation: antecedents and consequences", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 150-163. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-05-2020-0040

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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