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Gang membership and sexual violence: associations with childhood maltreatment and psychiatric morbidity

Coid, Jeremy, Gonzales, Rafael, Zhang, Yamin, Liu, YuanYuan, Wood, Jane L., Quigg, Zara, Ullrich, Simone (2020) Gang membership and sexual violence: associations with childhood maltreatment and psychiatric morbidity. British Journal of Psychiatry, Online . pp. 1-8. ISSN 0007-1250. (doi:10.1192/bjp.2020.69) (KAR id:81035)


Background: Gang members engage in many high-risk sexual activities that may be associated with psychiatric morbidity. Victim-focused research finds high prevalence of sexual violence towards women affiliated with gangs.

Aims: To investigate associations between childhood maltreatment and psychiatric morbidity on coercive and high-risk sexual behaviour among gang members. MethodCross-sectional survey of 4665 men 18–34 years in Great Britain using random location sampling. The survey oversampled men from areas with high levels of violence and gang membership. Participants completed questionnaires covering violent and sexual behaviours, experiences of childhood disadvantage and trauma, and psychiatric diagnoses using standardised instruments.

Results: Antisocial men and gang members had high levels of sexual violence and multiple risk behaviours for sexually transmitted infections, childhood maltreatment and mental disorders, including addictions. Physical, sexual and emotional trauma were strongly associated with adult sexual behaviour and more prevalent among gang members. Other violent behaviour, psychiatric morbidity and addictions accounted for high-risk and compulsive sexual behaviours among gang members but not antisocial men. Gang members showed precursors before age 15 years of adult preference for coercive rather than consenting sexual behaviour.

Conclusions: Gang members show inordinately high levels of childhood trauma and disadvantage, sexual and non-sexual violence, and psychiatric disorders, which are interrelated. The public health problem of sexual victimisation of affiliated women is explained by these findings. Healthcare professionals may have difficulties promoting desistance from adverse health-related behaviours among gang members whose multiple high-risk and violent sexual behaviours are associated with psychiatric morbidity, particularly addictions.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1192/bjp.2020.69
Uncontrolled keywords: Epidemiology; psychotic disorders; childhood experience; alcohol disorders; drugs of dependence disorders
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Jane Wood
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2020 10:44 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 23:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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