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Please read this PDF and write a 1 page summary and critique of it- do you agree? Why or why not? Please upload to this dropbox by end

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Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2004) 95 – 111 Cumulative exposure to stressful life events and male gang membership David Eitlea,*, Steven Gunkelb, Karen Van Gundyc a School of Policy and Management, Florida International University, University Park Campus, 355A PCA, Miami, FL 33199, USA b Department of Sociology, Doane College, Crete, NE 68333, USA c Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire, Horton Social Science Center, Durham, NH 03824, USA Abstract In this article, the authors examine risk factors that predict gang membership among a cohort of South Florida boys. Using both prospective and retrospective data, the authors evaluated the role of early exposure to stressful life events in predicting joining a gang, controlling for other risk factors. The analysis revealed that while cumulative preteen stress exposure was not found to be a significant predictor of gang membership, the association between such exposure and the dependent variable might be mediated through other factors. A subsequent analysis of associations with gang members/gang-like behavior revealed a similar pattern—race, family financial problems, and preteen cumulative exposure to stressful life events were each found to predict association/behavior and involvement with gangs. D 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Introduction Contemporary research on juvenile gangs yielded little agreement among criminologists over the past two decades. Major disagreements surround how juvenile gangs are defined (Howell, 1998; Kornhauser, 1978; Miller, 2001; Shelden, Tracy, & Brown, 2001), the extent to which gangs are responsible for drug trafficking (Howell, 1998; Klein & Maxson, 1990; Skolnick, 1990), and even on the question of whether juvenile gangs receive significant scholarly attention or not (Covey, Menard, & Franzese, 1997; Howell, 2001; Miller, 2001). While the body of juvenile gang research may be somewhat cacophonous, some particular findings are both well established and disturbing. For example, gang members were found to be more likely to commit crimes, especially violent * Corresponding author. E-mail address: (D. Eitle). behaviors, and use drugs than nongang members (Battin, Hill, Abbott, Catalano, & Hawkins, 1998; Esbensen & Huizinga, 1993; Fagan, 1989; Howell, 1998; Spergel, 1995; Thornberry, 1998; Vigil, 1988). Whether or not juvenile gangs have received sufficient scholarly attention, the need for developing an improved understanding of gangs is warranted given the consequences of gang membership and the need for coherent policy formation and implementation. One such aspect of juvenile gangs that demands further examination is the identification of risk factors that predict gang membership. While generalist explanations of crime and delinquency have been applied to explain the presence of juvenile gangs, identification of the factors that put children at risk of gang membership are particularly important, given gang members’ enhanced involvement in criminal activity and drug use. Questions still exist concerning the proper identification of such factors to predict gang membership. First, much of the research into juvenile 0047-2352/$ – see front matter D 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2003.12.001 96 D. Eitle et al. / Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2004) 95–111 gangs entailed the use of observational methods that may not allow one to systematically identify the risk factors that distinguish the adolescent who joins a gang from a delinquent or other youth who does not. That is, studies that examined juvenile gangs and their members were not designed to identify the factors that lead to joining a gang, because the focus was on the gang and its world, not the community of adolescents who may (or may not) become gang members (e.g., see Decker & Van Winkle, 1996). Second, as noted by Hill, Howell, Hawkins, and Battin-Pearson (1999), few studies that utilized survey methods to examine gang participation collected prospective data. Clearly, prospective data would be preferred to retrospective data in order to identify the risk factors for gang membership. Additionally, most studies of gang membership have not systematically assessed the role of stress exposure as a risk factor, despite recent interest in the association between stress exposure and crime. The notion that differences in exposure to stressful life events is associated with adolescent crime and delinquency has repeatedly been demonstrated (Agnew & White, 1992; Brezina, 1996; Hoffman & Cerbone, 1999; Hoffman & Miller, 1998; Mazerolle, 1998; Paternoster & Mazerolle, 1994), yet little systematic work has been conducted to determine if such stress exposure is predictive of gang membership. The seminal work of such gang researchers as Cohen (1955) and Cloward and Ohlin (1960), as well as the recent insights of Agnew’s (1992) General Strain Theory, warrants an investigation of whether stress exposure is a risk factor for gang membership. The purpose of this article is to assess whether cumulative stress exposure (in the form of negative life events) is an independent predictor of gang membership in the context of other predictors by using a combination of prospective and retrospective data. Using longitudinal data from a multi-ethnic community sample of young adult males, this relationship was assessed using a comprehensive checklist of negative and traumatic life events experienced before adolescence, and measures of family structure, family disruption, family financial difficulty, family drug use problems, and family attachment. Additionally, these relationships were examined controlling for important predictors such as early deviant behavior and peer deviancy. To properly situate this research, previous scholarship exploring gang membership was first reviewed. Background Among the generalist explanations of crime (e.g., social control, social learning, and labeling theories) that identify different mechanisms and processes that lead an adolescent astray, most identify the vital role of the family in explaining both deviance generally and gang membership specifically (Covey et al., 1997; Moore, 1991). One recurrent theme in the juvenile gang literature is that adolescents are attracted to gangs because one’s family fails to fulfill the basic needs and demands that families typically provide (Moore, 1991; Perkins, 1987; Vigil, 1997). These ‘‘surrogate families’’ (Bynum & Thompson, 1996) are attractive to adolescents because they can provide a sense of belonging (Reiner, 1992) as well as material needs. Hence, adolescents who join gangs are often assumed to have deficient or destructive family lives—whether the source of the deficiency is poverty, family structure, poor parenting skills, lack of warmth, lack of supervision, poor disciplinary practices, or parental criminality/substance use. Studies that examined the role of the family in explaining delinquency generally and gang membership specifically confirmed these theoretical notions (see overview in Howell, 1998, pp. 5 – 8). While the foci of such studies oscillated between an emphasis on structural aspects of the family (the size and organization of the family) and cultural aspects (the behavioral-interaction patterns and styles of the family), several family characteristics were found to be associated with delinquency. Family factors that were identified/theorized as being predictive of delinquency include: coming from a broken home (Glueck & Glueck, 1950; Gold, 1970; Hirschi, 1969; Matsueda & Heimer, 1987; Wells & Rankin, 1991), being a middle child in the birth order (Glueck & Glueck, 1950; McCord, McCord, & Zola, 1959; Nye, 1958), family size (Hirschi, 1969; Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986), criminal parents or other family members (Farrington, 1979; Glueck & Glueck, 1950), families with a high degree of marital conflict (Amato & Keith, 1991; Glueck & Glueck, 1950; Nye, 1958), lack of an affectionate bond between parent and child (Glueck & Glueck
, 1950; Hirschi, 1969; Laub & Sampson, 1988; McCord, McCord, & Zola, 1959; Rosen, 1985; Slocum & Stone, 1963), a lack of supervision (Hirschi, 1969; Nye, 1958), and inconsistent and/or overly strict disciplinary practices (Laub & Sampson, 1988; Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986; Nye, 1958). Many of these same family characteristics were found to be predictive of gang membership (Adler, Ovando, & Hocevar, 1984; Bowker & Klein, 1983; Dukes, Martinez, & Stein, 1997; Fagan, 1989; Fagan, Piper, & Moore, 1986; Friedman, Mann, & Friedman, 1975; Hagedorn, 1988; Hill et al., 1999; Lahey, Gordon, & Loeber, 1999; Maxson, Whitlock, D. Eitle et al. / Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2004) 95–111 & Klein, 1998; Moore, 1978, 1991). Among just those studies that employed prospective data, the relationship between family factors and gang membership was less straightforward. For instance, Bjerregaard and Smith (1993) found that family factors such as attachment to parents and family supervision were unrelated to later gang membership in their study of males and females in Rochester, New York. On the other hand, Esbensen and Huizinga (1993), in their study of males and females in Denver, found that gang members reported higher levels of normlessness in their families, while Hill et al. (1999) found in their study of Seattle youth that family structure (living with two parents or a step-parent and natural parent versus other parental categories), parental attitudes towards violence, sibling antisocial behavior, and poor family management practices were predictive of gang membership. In addition to family factors, individual and peer characteristics have also been found to be predictive of gang membership, including physiological characteristics such as low autonomic arousal, early antisocial and externalizing behaviors, pro-deviant values, and association with deviant peers (see Hill et al., 1999; Hill, Lui, & Hawkins, 2001). As Hill et al. (2001) aptly pointed out, the finding of multiple predictors [of gang membership] suggested that there was no single dominant factor that led to joining a gang. Hence, research exploring the predictors of gang membership should account for multiple risk factors, if possible. Stress exposure and gang membership While some of the pioneering efforts to explain juvenile gangs argued that such stressful experiences as negative evaluations and failed aspirations put children at risk for gang membership (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960; Cohen, 1955), recent theoretical advances in strain theory prompted more systematic evaluations of the role of stress exposure in crime and delinquency. Agnew’s (1992) General Strain Theory (GST), as a reformulation and extension of Merton’s (1938) structural strain theory of criminality, provided a social psychological variant on how strain came to influence individual proclivities to engage in deviant behavior. In expanding the conception of strain to include stressors that entailed the removal (or threat of removal) of positively valued stimuli and those that entailed exposure to noxious stimuli, Agnew integrated stress theory as applied by medical sociologists and psychologists to the study of health and well-being, with traditional strain theory’s central proposition—that the lack of 97 opportunity to achieve positively valued goals such as financial success or occupational success would be criminogenic. He argued that these sources of stress (strain) produced negative emotional states such as frustration, anxiety, and anger in the actor and ultimately, if effective coping mechanisms were not available, unwanted behavior. From this perspective, deviance is a mechanism for dealing with stress, particularly if the actor does not have alternative coping mechanisms available. Evaluations of the association between exposure to stressors and delinquent behavior relied heavily upon prior social research examining stress and its consequences. This body of research focused on the impact of two general forms of stressors: (a) life events—a discrete event that can be identified as occurring at one particular point in time; and (b) chronic stressors—repeated strains that emerge insidiously, are more persistent, and then to be associated with the enactment of social roles and the interpersonal relationships they include (Pearlin, 1999, p. 400). While there were both methodological and conceptual problems that were identified with using life events as a measure of stress exposure (e.g., see Thoits, 1983), it was clear from the stress literature that these negative life events, including traumatic (sudden, unscheduled, horrible events) could serve as a major disruptive force in people’s lives and produce several adverse consequences (Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend, 1974; Pearlin, 1999). While recent research into the association between exposure to negative life events and delinquency generally supported the core elements of General Strain Theory (Agnew & White, 1992; Brezina, 1996; Hoffman & Cerbone, 1999; Hoffman & Miller, 1998; Mazerolle, 1998; Paternoster & Mazerolle, 1994), analyses that systematically measured exposure to negative life events and traumas to evaluate their predictive utility for ganging had not been conducted. Although prior work found that many gang members shared a history of lives filled with negative life events and other sources of stress (e.g., Hill et al., 1999; Moore, 1991; Vigil, 1988), this present study was the first to systematically measure and evaluate the association between cumulative exposure to an array of stressful life events and gang membership.1 This article examines cumulative exposure, rather than stress exposure proximal to gang membership for three reasons. First, there exists compelling evidence that exposure to stressful life events can have behavioral and mental health consequences despite occurring years or even decades earlier (Faravelli, Ambonetti, Pallanti, & Pazzagli, 1986; Kessler & Magee, 1994; Lauer & Lauer, 1991; Rutter, 1989; Turner & Lloyd, 1999). 98 D. Eitle et al. / Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2004) 95–111 If such experiences can have long term consequences for behavior, coupled with considerable evidence that greater exposure to recent stressful events is associated with involvement in delinquent behavior (Agnew & White, 1992; Brezina, 1996; Hoffman & Cerbone, 1999; Hoffman & Miller, 1998; Mazerolle, 1998; Paternoster & Mazerolle, 1994), it follows that an evaluation of the relationship between stressful life events and behavior should consider cumulative exposure. Second, there does exist evidence that cumulative exposure to stressful events is associated with a variety of behavioral and mental health consequences (Rutter & Quinton, 1977; Turner & Lloyd, 1995)—the present study simply extended the lessons garnered from prior research. Third, the data available for the present analysis did not allow for consideration of the influence of exposure to stressful events proximal to joining a gang. Another rationale for the present study was the conceptual overlap between events and experiences that were defined as stressful and the family characteristics that were linked to gang membership (such as family disruption or family conflict)—the question of whether other forms of stress exposure, independent of family characteristics or events, were risk factors for gang membership remained unresolved. No published study examined whether measures of stress exposure (e.g., counts of exposure to stressful life events) predicted gang membership, independent of other risk factors.2 Finally, while it may be assumed that such exposure to stressful events is predictive of gang membership given it was established that it was predictive of delinquency, and it was argued that the paths to gang membership and delinquency were not distinct (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999), this study also examined whether cumulative stress exposure was predictive of association with or exhibiting gang behavior. Examining the predictors of both gang membership a
nd association with gang members allowed one to begin to assess whether stress exposure differences, or other differences, were predictive of whether delinquency oriented youth became gang members or not. This study furthered prior scholarship by assessing whether cumulative exposure to stressful life events predicted subsequent gang membership independent of the effects of family characteristics and factors including family structure, family attachment, family disruption, family economic status, the extent to which one’s family was afforded basic necessities (including food, clothing, and shelter), and reported family drug use problems. Using both prospective and retrospective data to examine the issue of gang membership, the expectations (based on previous findings) were that children exposed to more stressful events, in one-parent families, those from disrupted families (separation or divorce), who suffered family financial stress, who reported experiencing little warmth from their parents, and who came from families in which drug use was identified as a problem were more at risk for gang membership than others. Additionally, this study controlled for other important predictors of gang membership/adolescent juvenile delinquency such as pre-adolescent delinquency involvement, pre-adolescent exposure to delinquent peers, and self-derogation (Kaplan, 1984). Controlling for these important predictors of gang membership and adolescent malfeasance served to further clarify the possible linkage between cumulative stress exposure and ganging among adolescent males. Data and methods Data In this study, data were analyzed from a fourwave stratified random sample of 1,286 South Florida young adults who attended Miami-Dade public schools in the 1990s (see Turner & Gil, 2002). Stratified by race/ethnicity, the present sample reflected the rich racial/ethnic composition of Miami-Dade County’s school system. This fourth of five scheduled data waves included self-reports from young adult respondents based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 1998 – 2000. Study participants were drawn from the total population of 9,763 male students scheduled to enter sixth and seventh grades in Miami-Dade’s forty-eight middle schools in 1990, and 669 female students from six of those schools, which approximated the racial/ethnic composition of the school system (Appendix A illustrates the sampling framework). Follow-up questionnaires were administered when respondents were in the seventh/eighth and eighth/ninth grades. A total of 7,386 questionnaires were obtained at Wave 1, for which the consent rate was 70.8 percent. Attrition rates for Waves 2 and 3 were 10.0 percent and 19.8 percent, respectively. Detailed analyses confirmed that Wave 1 and Wave 3 participants were representative of the population from which they were drawn. For inclusion in the current wave, 1,683 cases were randomly selected from the originally interviewed pool, from which 75.1 percent of males (n = 956) and 80.5 percent of females (n = 330) were successfully interviewed. Analyses suggested that, on most indicators, current respondents did not differ significantly from those who refused to be interviewed or were not D. Eitle et al. / Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2004) 95–111 located.3 Due to constraints in the data collection strategies for the original boys’ and girls’ samples, the present analysis was limited to male respondents. In particular, concerns about insufficient statistical power for analyses on the smaller female sample which only had one reported gang membership, warranted such a restriction. Thus, the present sample included 838 young men, of which about half were Hispanic, 25 percent were African-American, and 25 percent were non-Hispanic White. Ages ranged from eighteen to twenty …


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