Why people join gangs: University researcher discovers an 'antisocial personality' predicts gang membership

Posted by fi17 at Nov 14, 2011 10:40 AM |
Study on male prisoners shows gang members share common character traits

A researcher from our School of Psychology has found that people may join gangs because of their personality, not because of peer pressure, fear or intimidation as has previously been thought. Dr Vincent Egan carried out the study with Matthew Beadman of University College London's clinical psychology programme. The researchers gave psychometric personality tests to male prisoners and compared the personalities of gang members to non-gang members.

The findings suggest gang members have an 'antisocial' personality type that predisposes them to join gangs. This personality type makes them impulsive and they often act rashly, and they usually don't think or care about how their behaviour will affect others. This makes them such disagreeable company that their peers at school or work usually avoid them, and they struggle to fit in until they meet other people who share their personality and values - such as gang members.

The researchers believe some people actively go looking for gangs to join because they are looking for other people like them. Joining a gang may be their only way such persons can make friends, fit in, and feel as if they belong. The findings also suggest that people stay in gangs because they make friends with other members and feel a strong connection to the group. In a gang impulsive and antisocial behaviour is praised and respected, rather than being seen as disruptive, further increasing the feeling of belonging.

The research is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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