Friday, January 13, 2012: 10:00 AM
Burnham (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Purpose: Previous research has identified that the risk factors for gang involvement fall within five domains: individual, family, peer, school, and neighborhood (Howell & Egley, 2005; Klein & Maxson, 2006). Most of the previous studies have examined which factors predict gang involvement but have not focused on determining if the risk factors vary by grade level. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine if the predictors of gang involvement vary for students in grades 6th-12th. The risk factors examined in this study are associated with the five above-mentioned domains. Methods: Using data from the School Success Profile (SSP), this current study examined the predictors of gang involvement for students in grades 6th to 12th. The sample for this study consisted of 12699 6th-8th graders, 4160 9th-10th graders, and 2220 11th-12th graders. There were 950 6th-8th graders who were involved in a gang, 394 9th-10th graders who were involved in a gang, and 135 11th-12th graders who were involved in a gang. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted using MPLUS. Three separate binary logistic regression analyses were conducted-- one for grades 6th-8th, one for grades 9th-10th, and one for grades 11th-12th. Nineteen risk factors were included in each model to assess if they predicted gang involvement. These risk factors were as follows: individual domain (negative life events, self-esteem, race/ethnicity/ and gender); family domain (family structure, poverty, parental monitoring, and parent's belief about the importance of doing well in school); peer domain (associating with deviant peers and peer group rejection); school domain (perceptions of school safety, received failing grades, repeated a grade, school suspension, school engagement, college aspirations, and involvement in extracurricular activities); and neighborhood domain (neighborhood youth get into trouble, and perceptions of neighborhood safety). Results: Each model was statistically significant (p < .001). The predictors varied across grade levels, with the 6th-8th graders having the most risk factors and the 11th-12th graders having the least risk factors. The majority of the risk factors for both the 6th-8th and 9th-10th graders were in the school domain. As for the 11th-12th graders, the majority of their risk factors were in the individual domain. Additionally, there were some predictors that were consistent across grade levels. These predictors were being African American, male, perceiving that one's neighborhood was unsafe, being rejected by one's peers, and associating with deviant peers. Implications for Interventions: Based on the results of this study, specific grade level interventions are warranted. For example, for the 6th-8th graders, interventions should focus on increasing parental monitoring, helping students deal with the death of a friend, and preparing students to achieve academically so that they can be prepared to go to college. At every grade level, interventions should be developed to increase neighborhood safety and enhance students' skills and ability to make friends with students who engage in prosocial behaviors. Social skills training should also be provided so that students will be less likely to be rejected by their peers.
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