Boredom and a lack of structured activities can also lead adolescents to join a gang. Many times individuals are looking for an outlet to vent their energy. Without participation in extracurricular activities at school or a structured neighbourhood program, individuals will turn to a gang to provide this outlet. Gangs provide activities and a social life. Many times the activities seem adventurous at first and many teens enjoy living on the edge. Also, if the individual does not have a structured home life or any socialization, the gang could offer structure and family feel. The individual is therefore no longer isolated and alone. Many times these teens feel despair over a situation in which they feel they have no control. This can be from a lack of academic progress to trying to escape from a home life with absent or addict parents. Teenagers who cannot succeed academically may realize without a high school diploma or equivalency diploma they will have a very dismal future. Many times they realize there will be limited job opportunities and therefore feel the only way to earn any money is through the support of the gang. “Young people who are not finding success at school may see no hope or future for themselves through the path of education and many don’t believe they could ever get a good job or go to college, so they look for other alternative” (“Why Young People Join Gangs” 2003). Also, with a home life in which money is scarce and there is an addict parent or one who is absent, this can lead to a feeling to where the only option is to join a gang, 13
THE AFFECTS OF GANG VIOLENCE IN AMERICA 14 as parents are failing to provide basic needs. If the teenager’s life is dysfunctional, the temptation to join a gang can be strong. Teenagers are especially in the process of developing their own personal life. They are also very vulnerable. Many times gangs can provide a sense of purpose, belonging and a way of life. “A neighbourhood gang can seem like the only real family they will ever have. Joining a gang gives them a sense of belonging and being a part of something important that they can’t get otherwise” (Grabianowski, 2010). Many youths are searching for a place to belong. “Gangs accept youth who don’t feel loved or accepted by parents, adults or school” (“Why Young People Join Gangs” 2003). “Gang identity also offers members guidelines on how to act and dress” (“Why Young People Join Gangs” 2003). Gang members have said the “mere interaction of members, listening to one another’s problems and sharing the other trials and tribulations today’s teens are faced with are the drawing card for them to become” a gang member (Nawojczyk, 2009). There is also respect “which is sought for not only the individual, but also for one’s set or gang, family, territory, and various other things, real or perceived in the mind” of the individual (Nawojczyk, 2009). “Gang involved youth usually place a very high value on personal respect” (Tag, 2010).
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