Objectives: We examined the possible public health consequences of adolescent gang membership for adult functioning.
Methods: Data were drawn from the Seattle Social Development Project, a longitudinal study focusing on the development of positive and problem outcomes. Using propensity score matching and logistic regression analyses, we assessed the effects of adolescent gang membership on illegal behavior, educational and occupational attainment, and physical and mental health at the ages of 27, 30, and 33 years.
Results: In comparison with their nongang peers, who had been matched on 23 confounding risk variables known to be related to selection into gang membership, those who had joined a gang in adolescence had poorer outcomes in multiple areas of adult functioning, including higher rates of self-reported crime, receipt of illegal income, incarceration, drug abuse or dependence, poor general health, and welfare receipt and lower rates of high school graduation.
Conclusions: The finding that adolescent gang membership has significant consequences in adulthood beyond criminal behavior indicates the public health importance of the development of effective gang prevention programs.