It can be difficult for clinicians to treat adult individuals who are affiliated with gangs, as these people being seen for treatment are typically mandated for therapy or are incarcerated. In examining youth who engage in gang-affiliated activities, it is important for clinicians to remember that children and adolescents involved usually reside in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods and do not have many mental health resources available to them. Additionally, youth typically become involved in gangs because of the sense of “brotherhood or sisterhood”, basically a sense of family that they long for. Research indicates that low self-esteem is associated with youth gang membership, giving several implications for families and clinicians. When children are being seen for therapy, it is important for clinicians to assess levels of self-esteem with this population, especially if they meet other risk factors for gang membership, such as low psychosocial maturity and living in an unsafe environment that is prone to violence and crime. Intervening with gang members at the adult level is so challenging, that it is essential to reach out to these children and give them the support they need so that they don’t make decisions that could affect the rest of their life negatively.
If you or someone you know suspects their child may be at risk for the influence of others in their environment, there are many resources available to assist in the process of support and problem-solving, including professional counseling. Call (215) 487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services, which include one-on-one therapy with a trained clinician.
Author: Kelsey Dailey, M.S.