Researchers have found that moderate levels of parental monitoring combined with good coping skills can keep high-risk kids out of gangs.
Experts say that gangs accounted for 20 percent of the murders in 88 of the largest cities in the U.S. between 2002 and 2006.
Researchers looked at methods to actively discourage gang participation beginning with an analysis of cross-sectional data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Violence Survey.
This survey included more than 4,000 teens at 16 government-funded schools, mostly between the ages of 14 and 18, and at high risk of being involved in violence as a result of coming from areas with high levels of serious crime and deprivation.
The responses showed that almost half (48 percent) had drunk alcohol and just over three out of five (62 percent) said they had participated in antisocial or delinquent behaviors during the past year. More than half (55 percent) said they had been bullied by a peer.
Positively, almost two thirds of the students said they either had the confidence to cope with conflict (just over 64 percent) or had parents who had provided positive reinforcement in the past month (63 percent).
A similar proportion said they were subject to at least moderate parental monitoring (64 percent), while most said they were supported at school (94 percent) and felt connected to their school (79 percent).
As a bottom-line, researcher found that just over 7 percent of the teens said they were in, or thinking of joining, a gang.
Most of these respondents had two or more risk factors (63 percent). 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.
Researchers discovered regular drug and alcohol use and skipping school were key risk factors for gang affiliation, while moderate parental monitoring and good coping skills emerged as the strongest protective factors.
The protective factors were found to reduce the risk of gang involvement even among high risk teens.
Additionally, those who had at least one protective factor (good coping skills), were no more likely to get involved than their peers at low risk with neither protective factor.
Researchers believe the findings suggest that while it may not always be possible to reduce risk factors, parental monitoring and training on resiliency may significantly curb the lure of gangs.
The new study is published online in the journal Injury Prevention.
Source: British Medical Journal