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The role of the family in facilitating gang membership, criminality and exit

A teenage boy and a teenage girl stand in a graffiti-covered underpass. He shows her something on his phone.

The Dawes Unit was a specialist unit within Catch22 that addressed the harms caused by gangs and youth violence, bringing together research, policy and practice. The service produced a range of research, which addresses the problems caused by gangs and explores how best to prevent gang involvement and support those looking to exit. This publication is part of that output.

The role of the ‘gang’ in shaping and encouraging criminality has an ever-increasing profile within the criminal justice system, the third sector and across the political landscape. The growing perceived threat from the gang has occurred against the background of increasingly restrictive legislation and numerous policy documents focusing on what might be responsible for the possible rise in gang membership. One often-cited factor is the role of the family and its influence on gang membership. It is this relationship that the report explores.

The research commissioned by Catch22 was designed to contribute to the debate on the role of the family in facilitating gang membership, criminality and exit in the UK. The purpose of this exploratory study was to understand the complex relationship between gang membership and family dynamics. It had several key aims:

  • to examine the role families play in influencing gang membership and gang-related criminality and in doing so to identify which factors, if any, are most influential;
  • to identify what strategies parents and carers take to discourage gang involvement; and
  • to highlight family-focused best practice policies and interventions that encourage desistence amongst gang affiliated youth.