Gang Membership and Mental Health During the Transition to Adulthood

Valerio Baćak, Samuel E. DeWitt, Shannon E. Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: There is an increasing understanding that mental health may be a collateral consequence of joining a gang. The objective of the present study is to assess the effect of gang joining on a set of diverse mental health outcomes that include depression, anxiety, hostility, and paranoid ideation. Methods: To reduce bias in our comparisons, we balance gang-joiner and gang-abstainer groups by applying the entropy balancing algorithm to longitudinal data from the Pathways to Desistance study. Results: The results indicate that joining a gang is implicated in poor outcomes for all four measures of mental health considered in our analysis. The observed associations persist both at the first and second wave after joining a gang. Conclusions: To understand more comprehensively both the short- and long-term consequences of gang joining, scholars of crime and justice must expand their focus to include mental health—not solely as a predictor of group offending but also as its consequence. Future studies should also consider mental health in the context of gang desistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-596
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


  • Entropy balancing
  • Gang joining
  • Life course
  • Mental health


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