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News Release


Adolescent Gang Life Brief but Violent, Says Book by UAlbany Professor

Contact: Lisa James Goldsberry(518) 437-4980

ALBANY, 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 positive effect.

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 dissertation topics.


Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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