Children and young adults in gangs: impact on lifecourse development

A team from the University of Manchester and NatCen Social Research used data from the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS), to explore the circumstances that lead to young people joining, remaining, and leaving gangs in England and Wales.

They found that gang membership increases the chances of offending, antisocial behaviour, and drug use among young people. In light of this, the researchers conclude that the current policy approach of treating gang membership as a distinct part of crime and youth policy is the correct one.

However, they also highlight the diversity within the different groups defined as ‘gangs’. They warn of the dangers in adopting an overly-general conception of ‘gangs’, namely the risk of drawing young people unnecessarily into anti-gang policies (‘net-widening’), and the widespread and counterproductive stigmatic labelling of youth.

In light of this, they argue that preventative and restorative interventions should take care in differentiating between deviant youth group types. Blanket interventions may have desired consequences in some groups but create or exacerbate problems in others.

Project details



Juan Jose Medina Ariza, School of Law, University of Manchester

Grant amount and duration:


July 2010 - March 2011