Updated: October 9, 2012 2:00PM
Dr. Wallace: Our family lives in an area of Chicago where many teens belong to gangs. For the most part, these gang members do nothing but commit crimes and cause havoc. We have our two sons in a private school because the public school is run like a prison. Once we save enough money, we will move to a different area. I’ve often wondered why teens join a gang. My husband and I lived in this area when we were young. We had friends, but we didn’t know of any gangs. Why do kids join gangs? Is it lack of parental guidance?
Mother: Of course, parental control and guidance play a major roll in their teen’s social development. But even the very best parents have teens who join gangs. Sociologists at the University of Houston conducted research on teen gangs in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and concluded that the main reasons for joining a gang were 1. to feel accepted by peers, 2. to feel needed and 3. to feel important. Those with low self-esteem and who lack self-confidence are prime gang candidates.
The great majority of gang members are not bad human beings, but they sometimes get involved in unhealthy activities due to the sheer power of gang peer pressure and the contagious nature of mob violence.
Conscientious, loving parents can have a strong influence on keeping their teens gang-free, but some teens will put friends over family and be involved in gangs.
Write to Dr. Wallace