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Most researchers have long believed that people joined gangs because of fear, intimidation or social pressure. There has been little more than anecdotal evidence to support these ideas however. Now new research has identified extreme antisocial personality as a key reason why some criminals join gangs. Instead of pressure to join, they are actively seeking like-minded individuals with whom they can find acceptance and common values.
“Or findings suggest individuals with low agreeableness seek out similar peers (in terms of disposition and attitudes) and this assortative process drives gang membership rather than socialization alone,” said Dr. Vincent Egan of the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology.
Even within the criminal element, the most antisocial have a hard time fitting in. Therefore, the most antisocial, being socially excluded, seek out others like them as a way of fitting in and making friends. These people create or join gangs.
According to Dr. Egan, “Anti-social group formation is strengthened if low-agreeableness individuals are rejected from pro-social peer groups, and peer group rejection predicts gang membership and deviance.”
Prisoners in jail who participated in the study were asked to answer a range of psychometric personality questions. They were asked about impulsive behavior and level of commitment to gangs. The “antisocial personality” was a clear indicator of predisposition to join gangs. The antisocial personality is defined by impulsivity, low self-discipline, low self-control, and a lack of concern for other people. They preferred the company of other anti-social personalities instead of people who could provide a good influence.
“Our findings suggest interventions seeking to reduce gang adherence focus on antisocial rather than emotional thoughts and behaviors, reiterating the importance of offence-focused interventions,” explained Dr. Egan of the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology.
Source: Personality and Individual Differences, ScienceDaily
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