Background Information

The issue of youth gangs is a major concern to many people in the society today. This is due to the numerous social and economic problems and challenges such as high levels of insecurity, killings of people, loss and destruction of properties as a result of robberies and burglaries, drug trafficking and other social vices like rape that youth gangs pose to members of the society. The impacts and consequences of criminal activities of youth gangs are experienced by millions of people in the society, and particularly by the law enforcement officials who are contacted to act in response to gang actions.

In the recent, there has been a persistent and continual increase the number of criminal gangs in the United States. According to Howell (2004), most of these gangs are composed of youths. Curry and Decker (1998) also affirm that male and female individuals aged between twelve and twenty years form the largest portion of active participants in major gangs across the United States of America. A number of factors such as high levels of poverty, low levels of educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate parenting, increased use of drugs and alcohol by young people and peer pressure have been cited as the major causes of involvement of youths in gang activities. Inadequate parenting usually deals with the structure of the families or homes of the youths.  Research studies have referred to lack of male parents in homes as the major contributing factor for youth involvement in gang relations. In that regard, he research study aims at establishing whether or not more children from fatherless homes are more prone to involvement in gang activities.

Research Need

Many children from fatherless homes have been associated with gangs in the United States of America. Considering the many questions that have been raised on the involvement of fatherless children in gangs, more research studies need to be carried out to determine whether or not more children from fatherless homes are more likely to find their way into gang relations. The specific intend of this research study is to find out if more children from fatherless homes find their way into gang relations.

The Nature of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to find out if more children from fatherless homes find their way into gang relations. The sample population for this study will consist of one hundred and fifty (150) participants who come from fatherless homes. In addition, the sample population will comprise of both male and female participants aged between ten and eighteen years. The study participants will answer short questionnaires that will be administered to them by the researcher. The information gathered by the questionnaires will be analyzed and scrutinized to determine whether more children from fatherless homes find their way into gang relations. In order to ensure that information obtained from the research study are valid and reliable, all questionnaires used in the study will be field tested using two gang groups in New York and California states. The findings of the study will then be used in answering the research question.

Definitions

Child- A child refers to any person who has not reached the age of majority. This study considers eighteen years as the legal age of majority.

Fatherless home- A fatherless home is a family that does not have a paternal or male parent as its head. Most families become fatherless due to factors such as death of the father, separation or divorce of parents or as a result of children being born out of wedlock.

Gang- A gang is a group of people who engage in illegal or criminal activities and has a definite identity amongst its members. Most members of a gang usually identify themselves using a specific name, symbol, slogan or sign. For the purposes of this research study, a gang will refer to a group of three or more people who identify themselves using specific names, symbols or signs and are engaged in criminal activities either individually or collectively.

Assumptions of the Study

This research study is based on three major assumptions, namely;

a)The size of the sample population used in the study is large enough and adequately represents children from fatherless homes who either find or do not find their way into gang groups

b)The use of questionnaires and survey technique to find out if more children from fatherless homes find their way into gang relations will result into reliable, straightforward and accurate feedback that can be used to make reasonable and realistic conclusions on the research topic.

c)Conducting a research study to find out if children from fatherless homes are more likely to find their way into gangs will help in providing a better understanding on the relationship between being fatherless and involvement in gang activities.

Research Question

This research study will attempt to answer the following question: Do more children from fatherless homes end up in gangs?

Methodology

This study will involve detailed reviews and analysis of literature on whether or not more children from fatherless homes usually end up in gangs. Information obtained from the reviews and analysis of literature will form a good basis and starting point for development of questionnaires that shall be used during the study to find out if more children from fatherless homes often find their way into gang relations. During the study, participants will be required to fill the questionnaires honestly and accurately. After data collection, all the information gathered will be analyzed and examined to determine whether or not children from fatherless homes end up in gangs. Appropriate conclusions shall be drawn from the analysis and examination of the collected information in relation to the research question.

Literature Review

The review of literature for this study is centered on previous research studies on gangs in the United States of America. The information and findings provided by such studies shall be used as benchmarks and points of reference for this study. Moreover, the review of literature is intended to provide a superior and comprehensive understanding of trends in youth gangs in the United States, and specifically the involvement of individuals below the majority age of eighteen years. Emphasis will be laid on involvement of both male and female youths from fatherless homes in activities of various gangs in the United States.

Plan for Review of Literature

The review of literature will include the following identifiers: number of children from fatherless homes in the United States, involvement of children from fatherless homes gang activities and relationship between family background and involvement in gang activities. A number of books, articles, peer-reviewed journals, publications from the state and federal governments and organizations and websites will be utilized during the study.

Youths in Gangs

It is highly exigent and challenging to find adequate and reliable information relating to involvement of children and youths in gangs in the United States of America. According to Howell (2004), this is due to lack of clear understanding of why and how children become involved in gang activities. According to Howell (2004), most research studies on gang relations are usually based on theoretical assumptions. Similarly, most gangs usually dissolve and disappear for reasons that are poorly understood (Spergel, 1995). This poses a greater drawback and impediment to efforts by researchers to establish the rate or level of involvement of children and youth in gangs. Howell (2004) further suggests that more research studies on the formation of youth gangs, their disruptive activities and factors that lead to diversion of children and youths from gangs are necessary and essential in order to provide an elaborative explanation and comprehensive understanding of this critical issue.

The National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) has conducted a number of surveys since 1995 to establish the involvement of youths and children in gangs. According to the National Youth Gang Center (1997), a group of people is considered a gang if it has six major characteristics, namely possession of a specific title, collective commitment of criminal offences, group members spending time together, members of the group wear specific insignia or symbols that indicate their membership, regionally affiliated and finally, the group is involved in numerous mischief or illegal activities in the society.

On the other hand, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) maintains that a gang is a group of people aged between twelve and twenty four years with considerable size and organizational structure that is actively engaged in illegal activities or violent and antisocial behaviors such as drug trafficking and burglary, and is characterized by communal or symbolic considerations (Moore, 1997). Thus, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recognize that individuals aged below eighteen years are qualified to become legitimate members of a gang.

Various factors such as age and gender have also been linked to increased involvement of children from fatherless homes in gangs. According to Curry and Decker (1998), most gangs are composed of youths whose average age is seventeen years. However, this age limit is reportedly higher in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Chicago where youth gangs tend to last longer (California Attorney General’s Gang Unit, 1996) than in rural areas. The California Attorney General’s Gang Unit (1996) also alleges that children and youths usually engage in gangs as young as twelve years, and may continue their involvement in the gangs up to the age of twenty-four years.

In terms of gender, the number of male children involved in gangs surpasses that of females (Miller, 1992). Moore (1997) approximate that nearly ten percent of active gang participants are girls.  Similarly, a survey by Esbensen and Osgood (1997) allege that thirty-eight percent of students from eleven cities who reported that they were active gang participants were girls. Another research by Egley (2002), in 2000 reported that ninety-four percent of youth gang participants were male whereas only six percent were females.

Involvement of Children from Fatherless Homes in Gangs

According to Delaney (2005), there are nearly six million children in the United States who come from fatherless homes. Delaney (2005) further asserts that sixty three percent of these children without fathers are actively or passively involved in gang activities.

A research study by Yoder, Whitbeck, and Hoyt (2003) on composition of gangs found out that children from more than six hundred fatherless homes are gangsters. Findings of the study further revealed that involvement of children in gang activities is directly related o family issues. For example, fifty-two percent of participants in the study reportedly ran away from home due to family issues, some as young as five years. Spergel (1995) also links fatherlessness and reduced parental control as a risk factor for involvement of children in gangs.

There are a number of factors that lead to increased involvement of children with no fathers in gang activities (Florsheim, Tolan & Gorman-Smith, 1998; Egley, 2002). Firstly, the absence of a father in the family usually leads to increased teen crime. The Texas Department of Corrections and Fulton Company (1992) also affirm that rate of crime is higher in families led by females. For example, the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC) reported in 1992 that eighty-five percent of children in juvenile jails were raised in fatherless homes. This affirms that children from fatherless homes are nine times more prone to gang participation than children from home with fathers. The rate of involvement of children from fatherless homes in gang activities is even higher in African-American families headed by female parents (Florsheim, Tolan & Gorman-Smith, 1998).

A research study by Coleman (1989) also verifies that lack of a father in the family usually encourages misbehavior amongst children.  According to Yonder, Whitbeck and Hoyt (2003), lack of a father in the family or home usually results into reduced adult supervision and inadequate instillation of discipline amongst children, thus increased participation of children from such homes in gangs. On the other hand, Esbensen and Osgood (1997) associate increased participation of children from fatherless homes in gangs with lack of well-established psychological and emotional support, especially to boys. According to Esbensen and Osgood (1997), instillation of discipline amongst male children is highly difficult and challenging in the absence of a fatherly influence in the family or home.

Summary

In conclusion, I am certain that this research study would greatly help in finding out if children from fatherless homes often find their way into gang relations. I also suppose that the findings of this proposed study would greatly contribute to the available literature and knowledge as well as act as a good foundation for more research studies on involvement of children from fatherless homes in gang activities in the future.

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