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Kid and Gangs

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Kid and Gangs

Gangs are no longer just a problem in large cities and urban neighborhoods. They can be found in just about every city in every state in the US. Teens usually join gangs in an attempt to correct both the social and emotional problems in their lives. There are many complex reasons kids join gangs, but they can usually be put in one of three categories. They join in order to find love and acceptance, they see gangs as a surrogate family, and they join to improve their self image.

Teens often join gangs because they want to feel that they fit in somewhere. Some youths feel rejected in more common social situations due to their cultural heritage, religious beliefs, or race. They join gangs to protect themselves against discrimination and to find acceptance among one another within their gang. "Gangs are made-to-order friendship groups," Says high school counselor Kay Miller. "When no one else will accept these kids, gangs will. It becomes a logical choice for kids who are desperately searching for companionship and identity" (qtd. in Wendel 4). Gangs are typically made up of people who have experienced similar rejection. This provides the members with feelings of equality and importance.

Sometimes these teens also feel that they are outcasts in their own homes. Some are basically abandoned by their parents and are searching for affection. While others have extremely critical parents and are searching for approval. However, all are looking for the unconditional love that they have never received. High school counselor Ken Tabish believes that, "Most of these kids feel alienated in some way. They are searching for a sense of belonging and identity, which they are not getting at home or school" (qtd. in Wendel 4). Without acceptance from their families, they may turn to a gang to find it.

Along with acceptance, these teens are also looking to fill a void left by the absence of a healthy family structure. "Youths want to organize their lives but lack the maturity to do so on their own. The gang provides rules to live by and a code of conduct" (Allender 3). The gang almost acts as a surrogate family. The structure of the gang is much like the structure of a family. The oldest and most experienced members are the leaders, and the younger newer members are the followers (Orlando-Morningstar 6).

Many gang members come from single parent homes in which only the mother is present. Because of this they search for the security and discipline a father traditionally provides. According to Robert Maginnis, "Youths from 'father-absent' homes look to gangs for paternal influence and discipline. Young people need this type of influence, and if they're not getting it at home, they will find it somewhere else" (Wendel 4). Gangs may also provide a sense of security or safety for its members. Being in the presence of a group may make members feel more secure.

The final reason kids join gangs is their need for self-actualization. According to Abraham Maslow, self-actualization is defined as, "the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, and potentialities" (Don Hockenbury and Sandra Hockenbury 339). Self-actualization can also be seen as self-fulfillment needs or the need to reach one's full potential. Self-actualization appears at the top of Maslow's model of motivations, called the Hierarchy of needs. This is because Maslow believed that self actualization is the ultimate goal, or the goal by which all other goals are driven. According to the hierarchy of needs just below self-actualization is self-esteem, or feeling of accomplishment.

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