Formation of gangs and involvement in drug use among marginalized youth: Uses of the anthropological view

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J. Brayn Page, Ph.D.
L. Herns Marcelin


Youth gangs continue to present major social problems despite their frequent appearance in literature on social processes and deviance. Investigation of gangs with a focus on emergence, involvement in drug use, and trafficking can lead to useful areas of inquiry. Youthful members of practically all immigrant groups have formed gangs in their process of adaptation to life in the United States, and most of these gangs either converted into organizations of adults or died out as members moved into adult rules. Nevertheless, growing numbers of gangs have become perpetuated in their home communities, and their members include adults over 30 years old. These perpetuated gangs draw their memberships from populations that have histories of socioeconomic marginalization. Newly formed gangs in populations that have arrived in the United States recently are at risk of perpetuation if the populations from which they draw members become marginalized through Jack of employment opportunities and viable adult roles. Both death and emergence of gangs in contemporary United States life merit further study with an eye toward preventing the most severe consequences of involvement in gangs, violence and drug use. Three cases in point- Cuban gangs in Miami, opportunistic gang formation in East Harlem, and Haitian youth on the verge of forming gangs provide examples of the process of forming and dissolving gangs. Data from a new study of Haitian youth suggest approaches to prevention of undesirable behavior among immigrant youth.

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