Is it Loyalty or a Trap?

Amber Hawkes, News writer and editor

Families are a key point of everyone’s life. Everything we do is affected, influenced, or observed by the people who we consider family. Whether it be through genetics, childhood upbringing, legal rights, or personal connections. Family can be a very comforting thing, but like with any relationship it can be complicated. Trust and loyalty are common within a family unit. Gangs are no different in this case. Gangs are viewed by psychologists as a “family” that the members have created for themselves, to feel a sense of belonging.


In 2010, 7% of U.S. teens were involved in gangs, according to Psychology Today. Kids are being recruited in elementary school to join gangs, however the most common time for children to be recruited is during middle school. Crime and violence soon consume the person’s life once they join a gang. For young children this can cause extreme trauma leading to obedience from most members. The absence of positive role models is said to be one of the leading reasons children are obedient once they join a gang.


Protection is also a reason that youth join gangs. When living in an area with lots of gangs and crime, sometimes it can seem like the only way to get protection. Once you are in a gang it can become extremely difficult to get out. With every gang there is this ideal of loyalty. Often loyalty is misplaced by teens, especially when it comes to gangs. Teens may be loyal due to fear, trust, or because they feel like this is their family.


When you leave a gang you lose all protection from that gang and become targeted by members of your former gang or members of a rival one. An article written by Bob Young, in The Seattle Times, talked about two highschool students in 2009 that were scared for their lives at a school event after leaving a gang. He talks about how one kid saw at least 10 guys closing in on him and had to contact his mentor to help him sneak out the back.


According to the National Gang Center majority of teens leave gangs as they get older for some of the same reasons they join. In the FAQ for the National Gang Center it writes, “ the process by which youth leave gangs, often referred to as ‘desistance’ are similar to the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ processes by which youth join gangs.” Once, people have left a gang they still have long term effects from being apart of it. Such as violence, premature parenthood, drug use, criminal charges, and injures. This can cause many problems throughout their future with raising children, trying to find a good stable job, rehab or continuous drug use, and so many other potential issues.


Teens and children need to learn to not be loyal to people who don’t have their best interest in mind. There are so many deaths due to gang violence everyday, not just in the big cities but in the suburbs as well. This is becoming a growing issue in the U.S. that has little attention and focus. A family unit is such an important part of development in children and teens. Positive role models and psychological help should be administered more throughout communities so we can try to decrease the amount of youth joining gangs.



credit line:

Young, Bob. “Gangs: Once a Member, It Is Difficult to Get Out.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 3 Mar. 2009,


Frequently Asked Questions About Gangs,


“Teen Gangstas.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,


Aacap. Gangs and Children,