Gang Life Brief but Violent, Says Book by UAlbany Professor
Lisa James Goldsberry(518) 437-4980
N.Y. (October 31, 2003) -- Being a member of a gang is not
a lifelong choice but more likely a brief stint in adolescence
that leads to dramatic increases in delinquency, gun use and
violent crime. This is one of the findings from an award-winning
new book by University at Albany Distinguished Professor Terence
Thornberry. Gangs and Delinquency
in Developmental Perspective (Cambridge University
Press) is based on a decades-long longitudinal study of the
effects of gang membership.
Thornberry, who teaches criminal justice, also directs UAlbany's
Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center and the Rochester
Youth Development Study (RYDS), on which the book is based.
The co-authors are UAlbany Professors Alan Lizotte of criminal
justice, Marvin Krohn of sociology and criminal justice and
Carolyn Smith of social welfare as well as Kimberly Tobin
of Westfield State College.
Instead of the traditional snapshot of gang members at a certain
age, in 1988 RYDS selected 1,000 seventh and eighth graders
from the Rochester public schools and tracked them to the
present. The research began before any of the students had
joined a gang. Eventually, 30.9 percent of them did. A conclusion
suggested by the findings was that prevention programs that
work directly with the gang as a group have no demonstrated
The original young people in the study are now 28 years old
and are being studied again to see how they have fared in
school, at work and in marriage and/or raising a family. At
age 30 they will be interviewed again. Researchers are also
interviewing the oldest child of the original participants,
and since parents of the 1988 seventh and eighth graders also
participated, the longitudinal data in this study will eventually
represent three generations, providing evidence of a depth
not ordinarily available.
The book was recently awarded the American Society of Criminology's
2003 Michael J. Hindelang Award for the most outstanding contribution
to research in criminology. The award will be presented at
the annual meeting of the society in Colorado in November.
RYDS has been supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention in the U.S. Department of Justice,
the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute
of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.
The primary mission of the Hindelang Center is to conduct
quality research in criminology. Through this activity, the
center pursues a variety of objectives, including the development
of policy recommendations in the field of criminal justice,
the dissemination of research results through publication
in scholarly journals, and the provision of opportunities
for graduate students to learn research skills and to develop