(Photo:Flickr/Alex E. Proimos)

According to researchers publishing online in the journal Injury Prevention, moderate levels of parental monitoring and good coping skills can deter adolescents from the appeal of gangs, even if the adolescents are considered to be at “high risk” for gang involvement.

According to the study, between 2002 and 2006, gangs accounted for one in every five murders in 88 of the largest U.S. cities. The study analyzed cross-sectional data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Violence Survey, which was collected in 2004 and included more than 4,000 teens at 16 government-funded schools. The teens being surveyed were “at high risk of being involved in violence as a result of coming from areas with high levels of serious crime and deprivation.”

The study found that 48 percent of the participants had consumed alcohol, while 62 percent reported participating in antisocial or delinquent behaviors during the past year. Fifty-five percent also reported having been bullied by a peer.

On the other hand:

“…almost two-thirds of the students said they either had the confidence to cope with conflict (just over 64%) or had parents who had provided positive reinforcement in the past month (63%). And a similar proportion said they were subject to at least moderate parental monitoring (64%), while most said they were supported at school (94%) and felt connected to their school (79%). In total, just over 7% said they were in, or thinking of joining, a gang. Most respondents had two or more risk factors (63%). But those with four or more were nearly six times as likely to be in, or want to join, a gang as their peers with no or only one risk factor. And those teens with three or fewer protective factors were more than 5.5 times as likely to be in, or thinking of joining, a gang as those with four or more of them.”

The study found that regular drug and alcohol use and any delinquency were key factors in enhancing the risk of gang affiliation for the adolescents. However, moderate parental monitoring and good coping skills were the strongest protective factors against it. Young people at high risk who had both these protective factors were “less likely to get involved in gangs than their peers at low risk of gang affiliation with neither of these protective factors.”

Source: British Medical Journal

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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