Gangs, Belonging, and Acceptance
A 12-year-old boy comes home from school. He enters his home through the front door and notices his mother sobbing. There is blood on the tissue she's holding. The boy starts to ask his mother why she is crying when he realizes what has happened. She answers his silent inquiry about why, by quietly saying, "your dad . . . he's on the back porch . . . he's had a bad day." Feeling helpless he goes to his room. From his window he can see his dad taking in the last swallow of beer and yelling, loud enough for the neighbors to hear, "Hey, bring me another beer. And where is that worthless son of yours? He was supposed to mow the lawn yesterday." The boy, having seen this too many times before, leaves the house the way he came in. Two blocks down the street he is approached by a gang member; and unceremoniously another child on the block has decided that gangs have something he wants; a since of belonging, acceptance. The gang becomes his family. This story is fiction, but fits the dynamics of a family system that supplies the gangs with its members.
Gang-member families differ from non-gang-member families in terms of quality of family interaction, supervision and discipline, family affection patterns, and maternal attitudes toward males. Non-gang member's families are more likely to go out together, are more likely to be consistent in their discipline, and are more likely to display their feelings openly in the family. The mothers of gang members described their husbands as rarely involved in the family's activities. They also had more negative attitudes toward their husbands (Adler,Ovando, & Hocevar, 1984).
The gang member is not the only one effected when he starts his life in a gang. He puts everyone around him in danger, including his immediate family and friends and relatives that may be visiting. Commander Bryan Smith of the Corpus Christi Police Department, when asked what type of family life do gang members have, said they come from male dominated households or one-parent households.
Many of these youth are from families that are female centered, they are not necessarily female dominated, because an aggressive male father figure can impact on the family's history, and more importantly on the child's psychosocial development.
This parental male is perceived as the most powerful member of the family system, who gratifies his needs through the use of aggression and intimidation. Many of these youths have been physically abused by this male adult and also have witnessed their mothers and /or siblings being battered. If the male figure is no longer in the home, his presence survives in the form of fantasy or family mythology long after his departure. (Adler)
Happy homes do not send many of their youngsters into gangs. Gangs are appealing to those kids who have unpleasant memories of their home life. There is emotional pain involved in most gang-members pasts. In the author's work (Adler) with...