All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Sylvie Mrug

Advisory Committee Members

Fred J Biasini

Susan Davies

John Waterbor

David C Schwebel

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2010

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Adolescent gang membership is increasing across the United States, and gang membership is associated with multiple negative outcomes including increased morbidity and mortality. Previous research on gangs and gang membership has established the factors of age, gender, poverty, hopelessness, conduct problems, and harsh or inconsistent parenting techniques as contributing towards adolescent gang membership acquisition. Additional factors such as academic achievement and popularity may also affect adolescent risk for gang membership acquisition. Consistent with Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), gang membership likely results from a complex interplay of adolescents' individual characteristics and external factors, such as parent-child relationships and neighborhood conditions. This study analyzed these risk factors for main effects as well as interactive effects between neighborhood level variables (socioeconomic disadvantage, neighborhood collective efficacy) and individual level risk factors (hopelessness, conduct problems, harsh discipline, inconsistent discipline, popularity, academic achievement). The sample was comprised of African American adolescents living in the Birmingham, Alabama metropolitan area. Data were collected over two waves (mean age at Wave 1 = 11.8; mean age at Wave 2 = 13.3) from both child- and parent-report. Using multilevel logistic regression, individual participants were nested within their neighborhoods to examine the effects of age, gender, hopelessness, delinquency, parenting techniques, and their interactions with neighborhood socioeconomic and collective efficacy variables on acquisition of gang membership. From these models, two significant predictors emerged; harsh discipline (OR=1.22, p < .05) and inconsistent discipline (OR=1.29, p < .01) at Wave 1 predicted gang membership at Wave 2 among these early adolescents. There were no significant interactions between either neighborhood level variable (collective efficacy or socioeconomic disadvantage) and any of the individual level variables (parental nurturance, conduct problems, harsh discipline, inconsistent discipline). Our findings have important implications for future gang research efforts in that parenting techniques are significant predictors of gang membership across a wide variety of socioeconomic and social environments. Future intervention efforts should focus on these younger age groups, particularly on improving parenting techniques so that they are less harsh and more consistent.

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