Predictors and Consequences of Gang Membership: Comparing Gang Members, Gang Leaders, and Non-Gang-Affiliated Adjudicated Youth

J Res Adolesc. 2014 Jun;24(2):220-234. doi: 10.1111/jora.12111. Epub 2014 May 23.


This 7-year study of 1,170 male adjudicated youth examined how self-esteem, psychopathy, and psychosocial maturity relate to gang status (low-level member, leader, and non-gang member). Low temperance, perspective, and responsibility predicted being a low-level gang member, whereas only lower temperance predicted being a gang leader. Low self-esteem predicted gang membership (low-level and high-level) at a younger age (i.e., during adolescence). However, higher self-esteem and grandiose-manipulative traits predicted being a gang leader during young adulthood. Over time, low-level members became more psychopathic and less psychosocially mature. Gang leaders also became more psychopathic and undercontrolled (as indicted by lower temperance). However, their perspective and responsibility aspects of psychosocial maturity were not affected.

Keywords: adolescents; gang status; grandiosity; psychopathy; psychosocial maturity; self-esteem.