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Gang membership and involvement: Student perceptions and prevention impact

Patricia Anne Murphy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The study describes the perceptions of a specific group of students toward the advantages and disadvantages of joining gangs. The research identifies the likely impact of a gang prevention program, the Gang Education and Resistance Curriculum (Tsagaris, 1996), on changing student perceptions about joining gangs. Lastly, the study examines what educators and law enforcement officials view are essential characteristics of a successful program to prevent students from joining gangs. Data were collected using a student survey and guided interviews with educators, correctional officers and teachers. One hundred seven students were administered a Gang Awareness Survey prior to and upon completion of the gang prevention program. Guided interviews explored observations and experiences the adults had working with each other and with the students who participated in the program. Findings indicate that students have varying perceptions about the advantages and disadvantages of joining gangs. The impact of a gang prevention program differs for each student. And, there is commitment by adults to prevent students from joining gangs. Specific findings suggest that: (1) Student perceptions of the advantages of joining gangs prior to participation in the program demonstrated lack of knowledge about gang member attributes. (2) Upon completion of the program fewer students perceived many advantages to joining gangs. (3) Overall data analysis indicates that it is likely that the Gang Awareness and Resistance curriculum has an impact on changing participating student perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of joining gangs. (4) Educators and correctional officers believe that collaborative models best serve the needs of the students, the schools and the community. The research culminates in recommendations for developing gang prevention programs. These recommendations can be used by school districts in collaboration with law enforcement officials and other community members to guide the development of programs that meet unique needs to prevent gangs in their schools and communities.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Criminology|Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Murphy, Patricia Anne, "Gang membership and involvement: Student perceptions and prevention impact" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9978531.