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Ties in Gangs: Exploration of Perceived Group Processes in Gang Membership

Mozova, Katarina (2017) Ties in Gangs: Exploration of Perceived Group Processes in Gang Membership. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:61260)

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Gang membership is a global phenomenon and a problem affecting a multitude of official and unofficial agencies, often reported by the media and causing overwhelming financial strain, as well as increasing fear of crime in communities. Whilst research on gangs has enjoyed popularity for almost a century now, this was mostly based on a criminological perspective, which did not provide a holistic picture for practitioners. Specifically, little is known about the psychology of gang membership, as such research is still in its infancy. Moreover, calls for understanding the social psychological motives for gang membership - such as gang members' perceptions of group processes, and how these influence individuals - have been present for the last 50 years but development in the area has been limited.

The aim of this thesis was to address some of this crucial gap in our knowledge of gang membership, to help enrich theoretical understanding, as well as prevention and rehabilitation strategies, so that these can be appropriately developed. In order for this to happen, it is key to understand which group processes lie behind gang membership based on gang members' subjective experiences, in different types of gang members, and how these relate to members' decisions to join and remain with a gang. The core assumption of gangs - that they are groups - has been largely neglected by research. The studies in this thesis provide the first holistic picture of the relevance of group processes in gang membership. The first, qualitative study, identified that group processes regularly manifesting in groups do, indeed, also manifest in gangs. It was also found that such group processes are understood by gang members in a manner specific to them. Further, the perceived group processes manifested differently at different stages of membership - when joining a gang and when remaining in a gang. The large quantitative studies that follow revealed that gangs differ from non-gang delinquent groups, and that different types of gang members differ in their perception of how group processes manifest. It was found that different types of groups and gangs were characterised by a specific set of perceived group processes. Further, these group process clusters differed, based on the stage of an individual's membership.

This thesis therefore uncovered that the area of social cognition based on group processes is important. The main conclusions drawn from the studies presented in this PhD are: 1) Group processes manifest in gangs and are perceived in a specific manner. 2) The perception of group processes differ in gangs and other delinquent groups, and between different types of gang members. 3) There are specific clusters of perceived group processes which characterise specific types of groups and at different stages of membership - group processes should not be dealt with in isolation. 4) The findings show that how gang members perceive group processes should be a key consideration in future research and any intervention strategies designed for gang members.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Wood, Jane
Thesis advisor: Gannon, Theresa
Uncontrolled keywords: forensic psychology, street gangs, group processes, social psychology, identity, cohesion, embeddedness, social comparison, social influence, social facilitation, decision making, group performance, power, roles, status, territoriality, social dominance, social exchange, reciprocity, norms, goals, interdependency, belongingness, social support
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 11:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Mozova, Katarina.

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