Call for Special Issue Papers

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Youth Gangs and Adolescent Development:
New Findings, New Challenges, and New Directions
Edited by Paul Boxer

Street gangs with youth membership have been present in American society for decades, and there is growing acknowledgement through local and national observations that contemporary gang activity is more entrenched and more widespread than in years past (Dinkes, Kemp, Baum, & Snyder, 2009; Egley, Howell, & Moore, 2010; New Jersey State Police [NJSP], 2010). On the national level, about 25% of all middle and high school students report gang presence in their schools (Dinkes et al., 2009), and the most recent estimates computed by the National Gang Center (Egley, Howell, & Moore, 2010) show that about 32% of all US cities, towns, suburbs, and rural communities encountered problems with gangs. Among national survey respondents who reported gang activity during the 2008 assessment, 44% also reported increases in gang-related aggravated assaults, 41% reported increases in drug sales, and 41% reported increased firearms use in comparison to the prior year’s activity. Compared to prior-year crimes, among agencies reporting from larger cities, 20% of respondents noted increases in gang-related homicides.

The wealth of data on youth gangs available from law enforcement and juvenile justice research is particularly striking in comparison to the relatively small empirical and theoretical developmental literature on youth gangs. Indeed, despite the vast literature on the development of aggressive and antisocial behavior more generally, only a handful of published studies have addressed critical developmental issues on youth gang involvement. For example, we know that gang membership is linked to elevated involvement in violent behavior as well as violent victimization; that joining a gang accelerates entry in delinquent behavior; and that gang involvement is linked to a number of factors in the peer, neighborhood, and family environments. But much remains to be explored, especially with respect to how developmental theory on adolescence can inform our understanding of the personal and contextual determinants and consequences of gang involvement. Among the key questions in need of attention are:

For youth at general risk for aggression and delinquency, what specific factors lead youth to join gangs or avoid joining gangs?

What dispositional or contextual dynamics account for youths’ sustained involvement in gang activity or desistance from gang activity?

What are the positive developmental functions of gang involvement, particularly with respect to theory and research on normative developmental tasks of adolescence?

What are the relations between gang involvement and other indicators of adolescent problem behavior such as substance use, risky sexual behavior, and academic adjustment?

What are the optimal methods for studying youth gangs from a developmental perspective, taking into account typical challenges or barriers to valid inquiry on this topic?

This special section will incorporate 5-6 papers on these or similar issues.

We welcome submissions for this special section through our submission site: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jra

Upon submission please note in your cover letter that it is designated for Dr. Boxer’s special section. Please direct any inquiries or concerns to Dr. Paul Boxer, Rutgers University, pboxer@psychology.rutgers.edu.

The deadline for submissions to the special section is February 28, 2013.