There are many theories behind why a youth will join a gang and embrace the lifestyle that accompanies it. There is a perception supported through the media that “gangsters” are generally young men of color who come to us from the poor sections of the inner city. However, this is not the case. Every day there are events that show us violence is not confined to a specific age, income, racial matter, ethnic matter or ethnic group. In particular, consider the latest rash of school violence with kids killing other kids. In the earlier years, most of the crimes committed were due to gang rivalry as a result of pride and loyalty to gang members and their neighborhood. These incidents demonstrate an escalation in the number of violent incidents that have resulted in innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire, not only by gangsters, but also by the boy next door.
It is said by many professionals that youth join gangs due to lack of self-esteem. Webster’s Dictionary defines esteem as “having belief in yourself. Our staff has worked with many youth who have a strong self-esteem in the lifestyle they live. However, one of the problems we see is that they have no responsible adult in their lives to build their self-esteem in a positive way. Many of our clients say they either never received support or they lost the support of the important adults in their lives as they grew older.
Often, their parents were too busy struggling to make a living or dealing with drug and gang issues in their own lives. These are the adults who would usually serve as role models. Youth need a close relationship with an adult who will combine caring about him/her with being an effective friend, guide, advocate and disciplinarian. Without a caring adult in their life, youth do not learn the moral or socialization slcills needed to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships, there by allowing them to associate value with other humans. This non-association of value on human life allows them to inflict great harm on others without conscience or remorse. California Youth Outreach believes that the first step toward affecting change upon youth with a gang mindset is to assist them in developing a conscience in how they are living.
In Attorney General Daniel E. Lungren’s “Violence Prevention — A Vision of Hope”, the Policy Council on Violence Prevention concluded that aggression is a learned behavior. California Youth Outreach’s approach is based on the belief that one of the causes of behavior problems in youth is that the past environment has FAILED to provide the instruction, examples and feedback necessary to develop appropriate behavior. The result is a pattern of one or more of the following: academic failure, thievery, vandalism, truancy, drug abuse, and gang involvement.