Objectives: To examine the prevalence of gang involvement, the risk and protective factors associated with gang involvement, and the association between gang involvement and exposure to multiple risk and protective factors among school-aged youth in Trinidad and Tobago.
Methods: A survey instrument was administered to 2 206 students enrolled in 22 high-risk, urban public schools, from March-June 2006. It measured 30 risk factors and 13 protective factors within four domains: community, school, family, and peer-individual, plus levels of alcohol/drug use and delinquency.
Results: About 7.7% of youth reported being a gang associate; 6.8%, a former gang member; and 6.2%, a current gang member. Gang involvement was associated with perceived availability of handguns, residential mobility, having parents who favor antisocial behavior, early initiation of antisocial behavior, intention to use drugs, having antisocial peers, and having peers who use drugs. Those with social skills, belief in moral order, and interactions with prosocial peers were significantly less likely to self-report gang membership. Additionally, the probability of gang involvement increased as the number of risk factors increased.
Conclusions: Gang membership among public school youth is about as prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago as it is in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, but further research is needed. Although risk factors associated with gang involvement were present in all four domains, peer-individual risk factors were disproportionately likely to be associated with gang status. The most effective gang prevention strategies might be those that focus on multiple risk factors, with an emphasis on peer-individual factors and promoting a "belief in moral order."