A teenage boy puts on his best clothes, shines up his car, and heads for the mall. He finds a couple of young girls and tells them about a cool party. Since there are two of them and only one of him, they feel safe. Not until they are at the party, the security doors locked behind them, do they realize: that they are the only girls there; that the guys are gang members; that they, the girls, are the party; and that there is no way out. Why would any teenage boy choose to have this life of crime? Although the behavior gangs partake in during initiations and even just every day activity sound unbelievable, the fact is that the number of gangs and gang members is growing by the minute. Gangs now operate in all fifty states and in suburban areas as well as the inner city. Some common reasons as to why teenagers choose to join gangs rather than school-related activities are because it fulfills their need to belong, fulfills their need for security, and gives them a way to express their anger.
The most common reason teenagers choose to become part of a gang is to fulfill their desire to belong to something and feel important. If a child doesnt have a sense of belonging in their family, they will try to find it elsewhere. A gang provides that sense of belonging that they may not feel at home or in their community. The child may be from a good family who thinks they belong, but if the child doesnt believe it than it doesnt matter. For example, excessive sibling rivalry can cause a child to feel as though they dont belong. If they dont feel important or as part of a family, they will be drawn toward a gang, which gives the cohesiveness of a family.
Also, some teens who choose to join school-related activities when they feel the need to belong sometimes get rejected by these groups. They may try out for a sport or dance corps and not get on the team. This rejection might drive the teen even more to join a gang. This denial lowers the childs sensitive self-esteem, which is a major factor in their life. For example, Maslows Hierarchy of Needs explains that in order for a child to reach their full potential, they first need self-esteem, which they get from having a sense of belongingness. All teenagers have a longing to feel significant and important. However, if they are not feeling this they may be driven to join a group that will accept them, no matter how disastrous the group may be.
Another reason why teens decide to join gangs is because of their need for security. This particular need is stronger in females than males, however it is a basic need of both sexes. Security is also one of Maslows basic needs, just above physical needs which are the basis to the hierarchy. According to Maslow, without security a child will not feel any love and belongingness; which is the first reason as to why kids join gangs. If a child doesnt feel safe and secure, a gang may provide this for them. They feel a greater sense of safety and security by being a part of a group, as opposed to being alone. Rather than becoming isolates having no security whatsoever, teens would be more likely to join a gang where they feel safe and protected by being a part of something greater than themselves.
Finally, a gang provides an avenue for teenagers to direct their anger. Anger is one emotion that is generally common in teenagers. Because one common characteristic of gangs is fighting, being a part of a gang provides direction for their anger and actually rewards them for expressing it. For example, initiations for gangs usually involve violent acts. Activities typically include rape, fighting, and/or removal of a victims body part. After the prospective member performs the violent action they were told to do, they get rewarded for it by becoming an official member of the gang. These violent acts allow a teen to express their pent up anger in ways not normally allowed. They feel being a part of a gang will to give he support and encouragement they need to freely express their violent emotions.
There are many different reasons as to why adolescents choose the gangster lifestyle. Some feel it is the best way to be able to express their anger in a violent way and be accepted for it. Others just want to be a part of an organization and feel being in a gang is the only way to gain friends and a sense of belonging. Whatever the reason, gang populations are rapidly increasing across the nation. If children grow up in a loving and safe environment they will be less likely to join a gang. All children feel the need to be someone- we as a community just need to find a way to keep that someone from being a gangster.