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Female Gang Involvement

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 35 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1998) Pages: 100-118
Date Published
19 pages

This discussion of female involvement in gangs reviews the research literature, describes the three major research themes in the literature, and proposes a research agenda that offers examples of how a common set of theoretical issues might guide studies of both male and female gang behavior.


The three themes that have emerged from the literature on female gang involvement are the need for a feminist perspective, changes in the magnitude of the problem, and the degree to which gang membership can be a form of liberation. An agenda for research on female gang involvement must overcome shortcomings of past research while building on the themes that have been central to that research. It should also be linked to major themes in the larger research literature on male gangs. An effective research agenda on female or male gang involvement needs to make the transition from simply describing gang behavior to developing and testing theories about gang behavior. In doing so, it must also move toward integrating research on gangs into the mainstream of research on delinquency and crime in general. Three theoretical themes that are particularly worth studying are (1) gangs and the theory of the urban underclass, (2) cultural factors and gangs, and (3) differences in levels of juvenile delinquency between gang members and nongang members. In addition, the recognition of the need for a feminist perspective may be the most important of the three themes noted from the literature, as a prelude to developing more useful theories of criminal behavior. 60 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1998