Gang membership increases chances of offending, antisocial behaviour, and drug use

By Nuffield Foundation

Gang membership increases the chances of offending, antisocial behaviour and drug use among young people, according to research published by the Nuffield Foundation today.

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

They conclude that, given the evidence, the current policy approach of treating gang membership as a distinct part of crime and youth policy is the correct one.

However, the authors also highlight the diversity within the different groups defined as ‘gangs’. They warn of the dangers in adopting an overly-general concept 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.

Key findings

  • Gang membership increases the chances of offending, antisocial behaviour and drug use but it is not a sufficient condition for these outcomes.
  • It is difficult to explain how gangs produce these outcomes but it is likely various mechanisms (i.e. change in routine activities and normative orientation) play a role.
  • Leaving a gang does not automatically and immediately lead to less problem behaviour but within a year there is a discernible effect. Additionally, most members leave a gang in under one year.
  • Problem and anti-social behaviour are the strongest predictors for joining a gang.
  • Gang members more likely to offend are less likely to leave a gang.
  • There is no evidence that the number of young people joining gangs has increased over time.
  • There are diverse sub-groups within the groups commonly labelled as gangs.
  • Police practice tends to focus attention, such as stop and search and stop and account, on two groups: individuals with prior police contact and individuals whose friends have had prior police contact – the “usual suspects”.
  • Ethnicity seems to matter more than self-reported offending behaviour for explaining the probability of being stopped and searched.

Explore our projects

Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Female-nurse-sees-patient-in-office-Integrating-enriched-longitudinal-data-North-Staffordshire-Stoke-on-Trent-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2024

Enriched data integration for population musculoskeletal health intelligence

View project
Older-man-and-woman-walk-together-Geographical-mapping-prevalence-outcomes-MSK-conditions-Wales-Scotland-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Mapping rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease in Scotland and Wales

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
Older-man-reads-textbook-Assembling-data-jigsaw-Greater-Manchester-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Assembling the data jigsaw: powering robust population research in MSK disease

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and wellbeing: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

COVID-19 social study

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and wellbeing: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

COVID-19 social study

View project
Empty-street-with-cyclist-and-pedestrian-in-distance-Law-and-compliance-during-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Justice | 2020 - 2021

Law and compliance during COVID-19

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

COVID-19 and families on a low income: poverty in the pandemic

View project
Woman-looks-at-smartphone-screen-How-the-UK-public-gets-information-about-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2020

How the UK public gets information about COVID-19

View project
Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Female-nurse-sees-patient-in-office-Integrating-enriched-longitudinal-data-North-Staffordshire-Stoke-on-Trent-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2024

Enriched data integration for population musculoskeletal health intelligence

View project
Older-man-and-woman-walk-together-Geographical-mapping-prevalence-outcomes-MSK-conditions-Wales-Scotland-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Mapping rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease in Scotland and Wales

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and wellbeing: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
Older-man-reads-textbook-Assembling-data-jigsaw-Greater-Manchester-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Assembling the data jigsaw: powering robust population research in MSK disease

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Woman-looks-at-smartphone-screen-How-the-UK-public-gets-information-about-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2020

How the UK public gets information about COVID-19

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

COVID-19 and families on a low income: poverty in the pandemic

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Valuing data: foundations for data policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Revaluation and reform: bringing council tax into the 21st century

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Atlas of inequality: understanding the local nature of a global phenomenon

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Interdisciplinary conference on evidence use in policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Overview of the major ethical issues arising from data, algorithms and AI

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Council tax support schemes’ impact on claimants & local authorities

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Improving survey representation of non-resident parents

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Pathways of incarcerated children in care

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Visualising data in care proceedings

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Addressing the ‘care cases’ crisis: a sector-led review

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Vulnerable migrants and well-being: A pilot study

View project
Search projects

We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

Profile