Deficit or credit? a comparative, qualitative study of gender agency and female gang membership in Los Angeles and Glasgow

Ross Deuchar, Simon Harding, Robert McLean, James Densley

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

To date, there has been a paucity of comparative, qualitative research exploring the nuances of women’s gang involvement beyond the United States. In this paper, we seek to address this gap by drawing upon qualitative interviews with small samples of self-nominated female gang members in Los Angeles, California (USA) and Glasgow, Scotland (UK). The emerging insights indicated that two key models of entry into the ‘social field’ of the gang emerged in the data: a deficit model entry linked to drugs and debt and a credit model of entry where women were considered to bring social skill, expertise and agency into the gang. Implications in terms of testable hypotheses for future research as well as for future practice are outlined.IntroductionContemporary evidence suggests gangs are often seen as a context for some young people to reverse their sense of social marginalization by accumulating status and respect (e.g., Anderson, 1999; Deuchar, 2009; Densley, 2013; Harding, 2014). This situation is more acute for young women (Cepeda & Valdez, 2003), and especially young women of color (Miller, 2008), whose situations are ‘confounded by class, race, and gender issues’ (see also Laidler & Hunt, 2001). However, female gang membership and criminal offending is a neglected and misunderstood research topic (Campbell, 1991; Hunt & Joe-Laidler, 2001; Moore & Hagedorn, 2001; Peterson, 2012). Only in recent years have gangs scholars become more attuned to women’s involvement in gangs and the ways in which young women construct a gendered gang identity or experience gang entry and exit differently from their male counterparts (Miller & Brunson, 2000). This emerging body of work notwithstanding (for a review, see Panfil & Peterson, 2015), a more comprehensive exploration of the female role in street gangs remains to be done. Added to this we note the paucity of comparative, qualitative research exploring the nuances of women’s gang involvement beyond the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1114
Number of pages28
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Volume66
Issue number8
Early online date27 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • gangs
  • females
  • crime
  • Victimization
  • Drugs

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