Getting Out of Gangs, Staying Out of Gangs: Gang Intervention and Desistence Strategies [open pdf - 593KB]
"Adults working with gang-involved clients often have questions about the reasons that individuals remain involved in gangs long-term, and how they can assist teenagers and young adults with leaving the gang. This article describes the pivotal life points at which targeted gang interventions may have increased effectiveness, and recommendations for strategies. A considerable amount of gang research over the past 30 years has identified factors leading to gang membership, including specific 'pushes' and 'pulls' that influence an individual's decision to join a gang. Individuals may be pushed into gangs because of negative outside factors, barriers, and conditions in their social environment such as poverty, family problems, and lack of success in school. At the same time, they may also be pulled into gangs because the gang offers a perceived benefit (Decker and Van Winkle, 1996) such as safety/protection, love and support, excitement, financial opportunities, and a sense of belonging. Until recently, very few studies have examined the factors that may contribute to an individual's decision to leave the gang (desistence). […] However, field studies conducted on a smaller scale in Los Angeles and Chicago in entrenched gang areas (Horowitz, 1983; Moore, 1991) found that gang members remained in gangs for a longer period of time and that the decision to leave a gang is more complicated. The ability and willingness of individuals to leave gangs appears to be related to factors such as the longevity of an individual's participation in the gang, and how established and severe the level of gang activity is in the community."
National Gang Center: http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov