Nov 16, 2020 in History

Gang Violence

Assignment: Analysis and Application Exercise

The basic premise of the study Collective and Normative Features of Gang Violence by Scott Decker is that the gangs share many common elements of collective behavior. The gangs share of the properties of groups similar to crowds, and engage in many forms of collective behavior. This nature of organization within gangs can become the key to understand gang violence.


There are several concepts studied in the article. The first concept studied is the collective behavior. That is the impulsive, unstructured, and short-term behavior of a group of people in response to the event, situation, etc. According to the author, gangs fit into this pattern perfectly that is why their activities should be examined from the perspective of collective behavior. Another concept studied in this article is contagion. This term includes following acts of violence caused by the first act; such acts usually develop into retaliation. Retaliation is the key concept of the gang violence since it constitutes its main motivation and reflects its reciprocal nature. Additionally, the author concentrates on five activities in which gang members use violence. These include violence itself as the leading activity of gangs, violent initiation of the new gang members, protecting the territory, graffiti and reputation through the violence, displaying violence in the public places and violent leaving the gangs.

The primary research questions are about which mechanisms and processes result in the spread and escalation of gang violence. So, the purpose of this study is to find out what contributes to the increase of gang violence, the spread of gangs from one community to another, and increases in gang membership in specific communities. These questions are appropriate in the given circumstances since the escalating of gang violence and the increase of quantity of gangs poses the serious problem to the government and social workers. Knowledge of the main causes of violence would help one to prevent it, to slow down the pace of escalation or to increase the given phenomena.

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Current research is valid, because it corresponds to the main criteria of validity. Given study corresponds to the content validity. After the three-year observation, the authors concluded that the perspective of collective behavior takes into account all aspects of a gang organization. The chaotic planning, loosening contacts and the absence of a particular organization are the common features of all the gangs of St. Louise. Current study corresponds to the criteria of construct validity. The study is valid, because it articulates a set of theoretical concepts and their interrelations. Additionally, it develops some ways to measure the hypothetical constructs proposed by the collective behavior theory. Besides, it involves empirically testing of the hypothesized relations. The study is considered to have face validity, because the interviews and personal observations seem to be the best methods to discover the natures and main causes of the gang violence. The study is also valid according to the demands of criterion-related validity. Since there is a high correlation between gang members and violence, there is a high criterion-related validity between the intermediate variable (preconditions of violence) and the ultimate variable (gang violence itself). Finally, the preconditions of gang violence can be used to predict the further escalation of violence.

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The conceptual and operational definitions were effective measures of the concepts.

Definitions of the threat, dread, contagion, the fear of retaliation and constellation appear to be the extremely useful framework for the further understanding of the given research. For instance, the threat has many functions. Being part of the gang belief system, it creates the need for protection, and increases the tension between the gangs. Apart from that, the threat involves people in a closed circle, and they become unable to socialize with other people. They become isolated. Without the knowledge of the functions threat performs, it would be impossible to measure the concepts effectively.

The research study is reliable, because it corresponds to all three types of reliability.

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These types of reliability include test-retest reliability, parallel forms reliability and internal consistency reliability. Similar results were received earlier by other gang studies such as Hagedorn (1988), Klein and Maxson (1989), Maxson, Gordon, and Klein (1985), Moore (1978), Sanders (1993), and Vigil (1988). Besides these results were confirmed by Decker in the course of three years when he interviewed the participants for the second or the third time (few generations). The validity of responses was ensured by the reputation of the street ethnographer and his experience in contacting and interviewing active offenders. The gang membership was verified through information from previous subjects, their own observations, or both. Since, the respondents varied in age, gang affiliation, and activities, they revealed information about a wide segment of gang activity. This study perfectly matches the parallel forms reliability. The research group relied heavily on the questionnaire asking about the same things to have similar responses. Decker and other proved the study is valid because they were giving the survey participants the same questions and then unsystematically dividing them up into distinct tests with the same sample, and observing the correlation between the results.

Finally, this study is valid since it fits into the criteria of internal consistency reliability. It means that respondents were ready to cooperate, and they were giving true answers even if they were asked the same questions for a couple of times. They were still answering similar questions within a single survey the same. Thus, the study design produced consistent measures of gang violence, and the research study is reliable.


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