In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gangs, Peers, and Co-offending

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Classic Readings
  • Anthologies
  • Defining Gangs
  • Measuring the “Gang Problem”
  • The Uniqueness of “Gangs” and “Gang Members”
  • Gender and Gangs
  • Joining and Membership
  • Drugs and Gangs
  • Homicide and Gangs
  • International Comparative Approaches
  • Anti-gang Programs and Policies

Criminology Gangs, Peers, and Co-offending
Terrance J. Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0028


Gangs and peers have received considerable attention from both researchers and practitioners. Less research exists, however, on the nature or extent of co-offending. By definition, gangs involve multiple individuals (the exact number of individuals it takes to constitute a gang is a hotly debated topic), typically of a similar age and/or shared experience, who may or may not co-offend (again, an important area of dissention). Although the coverage of gangs is quite varied, the following references highlight some of the major topical areas, such as defining and measuring gangs and gang membership, the nature and scope of the gang problem, how and why gangs develop, and the types of activities they are involved in. The seminal piece of gang research was first written in 1927 (see Classic Readings). The 1950s and 1960s then saw a flurry of theoretical approaches (see Classic Readings).

General Overviews

Several general texts are available from the top scholars on gangs. Early works (see Classic Readings) developed a rich framework for understanding the nature of different gangs and gang processes. More recent works, such as those by Klein 1997, Klein and Maxson 2006, and Spergel 1995 provide overviews of research and policy developed since the initial works. Other studies, such as those by Decker and Van Winkle 1996 and Hagedorn and MacOn 1988 provide rich descriptions of how community and individual factors influence the nature of specific gangs.

  • Decker, Scott H., and Barrick Van Winkle. 1996. Life in the gang: Family, friends, and violence. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    A book focused on results of interviews with gang members in St. Louis, Missouri. Strongly grounded in theory, this book uses interview transcripts to highlight many of the key issues covered in more general texts.

  • Klein, Malcolm W. 1997. The American street gang: Its nature, prevalence, and control. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An excellent entry point into the world of gang research. Based upon decades of study, the book demonstrates why Klein is often viewed as a “guru” of gang research and policy.

  • Klein, Malcolm W., and Cheryl L. Maxson. 2006. Street gang patterns and policies. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Provides a comprehensive overview of gang research and policies that work (and those that do not work) in addressing gang problems.

  • Hagedorn, John M, and Perry MacOn. 1988. People and folks: Gangs, crime, and the underclass in a rustbelt city, 2d ed. Chicago: Lake View Press.

    Focuses on the structural processes associated with deindustrialization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The book presents a critical assessment of other gang studies and an alternative approach to understanding how community decay fosters persistent gang problems.

  • Spergel, Irving A. 1995. The youth gang problem: A community approach. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Examines the youth gang problem from multiple perspectives. Primarily uses a social disorganization approach to explore the role of community institutions as causes (and potential solutions) to the youth gang problem.

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