The reason why adolescent youth join gang organizations is a question that has plagues policymakers of most states around the world. The issue has grown into a severe crisis in the United States, most notably among minority communities. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the United States as well as the minority group with the second most gang members and second most incarcerated group, falling behind only African-Americans. In this paper, I analyze why adolescent Hispanic youths are so at risk for becoming involved in a gang. In the first two sections, I individually assess lack of acculturation and ethnic marginalization, and how they place a role in the decision of integration. These are the main points of concern that lead many young individuals to become associated and integrated into these gangs. In the third section, I provide statistical analysis that correlates cases of lack of acculturation and ethnic marginalization and how they become the driving reason behind joining a gang. I also emphasize how gangs are seen as the primary outlet of support for these individuals and why other groups play no part in their psychological relief.
The Reason to Join a Gang: Acculturation Matters
Acculturation matters in the sense that it can affect any set of youths that consider themselves Hispanic, whether they are immigrants or even American-born Hispanics. Both groups suffer from relatively the same set of issues and both are consistent in trying to seek relief from these sets of issues. Lack of acculturation results from a list of factors, such as inability to learn or understand the native language, failure to adapt to the surrounding environment, lack of a set of supportive and interpersonal network, and persistent isolation from the new cultural framework. In an attempt to acculturate, the conflict between cultures can also lead to a sense ethnic betrayal, assimilation of prejudices against the native culture, self-depreciation and weakening of self-esteem and ego.
All these issues, seen in adults, can lead to severe cases of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and delinquent behavior. However, as an adolescent or child, these issues present an ever greater threat to the developmental psychosocial aspect. The result, as described by Roger, et al., is that “acculturation may endogenously shape expressions of psychological distress…” highlighting the issue of “how culture plays a fundamental, constitutive role in the expression of psychological distress”1. This distress is a direct result of the internal struggle of attempting to form an identity in the midst of such a conflictive stage in the adolescent’s life. Labeled the “identity struggle” by Wallace and Fogelson2, they develop a hypothesis correlating identity development to external forces of distress and how they may manifest into different kinds of coping behaviors. Development of an identity struggle in the cases I am examining result from “identity maintenance or restoration...