The Impact of Parents on Gangs

Peer pressure can influence children to turn to gangs, but parents have a strong impact, too. Children and teenagers often look to a gang to feel part of a community and be accepted, and they may not get these feelings at home for a variety of reasons. Children are less likely to turn to gangs if parents take an interest in their lives and offer support, love and guidance.

Vulnerable Children

According to Healthy Children, joining a gang can be an attractive option for children whose parents do not show them love or affection, and Mike Carlie, PhD., author of "Into the Abyss: A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs," says that gangs help vulnerable children to feel safe and accepted 3. Children may also be gang members if they come from dysfunctional families or if their parents are abusive. These children may turn to a gang to provide them with the love and security missing from their own parents.

Parents and Crime

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, if parents are involved in criminal activities or even gangs themselves, then their children are more vulnerable to joining a gang. Children are greatly influenced by their parents' actions and attitudes, so parents who model negative behavior directly influence their children's own attitudes towards crime and gangs. In addition, if parents fail to teach their children that criminality and gangs are wrong, then their children may feel it is acceptable to join a gang.

Family Structure

Parents can have a strong impact on children getting involved in gangs depending on the structure of the family. The U.S. Department of Justice says that if children have a fragile family structure, such as a change in caretakers, single-parent households and multiple family transitions, they are at greater risk of becoming gang members 2. Children are also at risk of joining gangs if the family lives in poverty or suffers financial stress.


According to, if parents have a good relationship with their children, the children are at a lower risk of joining gangs 1. Parents who take an interest in their children's lives can have a strong impact on their emotional well-being, making them less likely to join gangs. Parents who show affection and support allow children to feel accepted and loved, making their kids less likely to look to gangs to provide these feelings.