Being involved in a gang poses considerable health-related risks for adolescent African American girls, including more casual sex partners and substance abuse combined with less testing for HIV and less knowledge about preventing sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new study.
The findings come from a questionnaire survey with 188 African American females, ages 13 to 17, who were incarcerated in a short-term detention facility in Atlanta. The data showed that low self-esteem, emotional problems, trauma history, low parental monitoring, friends who engage in risky behavior (e.g., skipping school, selling drugs, having sex), housing instability and poor neighborhood quality all contributed to a higher likelihood of these girls being involved in a gang. The survey also provided some insights about the association between gang involvement and the high-risk health behaviors.
Study author Dexter Voisin, professor at the UChicago School of Social Service Administration, and an expert on the impact of community violence on a wide range of youth problem behaviors, noted that this population has a high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and an increasing rate of detention, but has not been well studied. Voisin’s research, “Correlates of Gang Involvement and Health-Related Factors among African American Females with a Detention History,” is being published by Child Youth and Services Review, and is co-authored by Ralph Diclemente from Emory University and Monique Carry and Kelly King from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The results from this study provide information that helps target certain African American females who may be at risk for joining gangs, ” Voisin said. “It also identifies the health risk behaviors that may be associated with gang memberships.”
Source: News Medical | University of Chicago