Date of Paper

5-2014

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica E Toft

Abstract

Female gang affiliation has often gone overlooked, however, recent research indicates a need to examine this issue due to the increase in adolescent females becoming gang affiliated. A national survey collecting data on gang affiliation indicated that females account for nearly a third of the gang member population. Not only are females joining gangs at an increased rate but they are maintaining their affiliation despite maltreatment and abuse. The purpose of this project was to explore the factors that contribute and encourage adolescent females to maintain their gang affiliation even though it is likely that they will endure continued trauma. A review of the literature indicated victimization and abuse within the family system as a strong contributing factor for gang involvement and maintaining affiliation. Using a qualitative design, eight interviews were completed with professionals who have experience working with adolescent females affiliated with gangs. Using an inductive grounded theory method, the data was analyzed and coded, and emerging themes were recorded. Major similarities between the data and the literature were found in the areas of early childhood exposures to dysfunction within the family system, the developmental needs that are being met within the gang, gender role expectations and continued exposure to trauma within the gang. The findings, however, exposed a major issue within the communities that young females return to after treatment, placements or incarceration that make it difficult to avoid returning to their gang affiliations. These findings highlight the importance for social workers to engage the families and communities in prevention and intervention strategies when working with adolescent females who are gang affiliated.

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