Peer groups, street gangs and organised crime in the narratives of adolescent male offenders


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The purpose of this paper is to explore how young people who offend with others define delinquent and criminal groups and consider the social risk factors associated with gang membership and criminal exploitation.

The sample consisted of 15 young people who were purposively sampled from a group of 14 to 17-year-old males who had been identified as at risk of gang involvement and referred to a community-based programme. Using a social identity framework, a thematic analysis was undertaken in order to investigate how the participants viewed their role in offending as part of a group.

Participants identified peer groups, street gangs and the involvement of adult criminals as distinct categories of offending groups. Unlike prior models for gang involvement, some members of the sample were involved in multiple groups to perform different categories of crime. Importantly, participants displayed an awareness of exploitation and described successful exist strategies from criminal groups.

Understanding how young people who are involved in delinquent behaviour and offending define gang and group offending. The implications for gang and group offending prevention and intervention programmes are discussed.

The literature on child criminal exploitation and UK drug markets is in its infancy. This paper offers further evidence for the processes of joining and leaving delinquent and criminal groups.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Criminal Psychology
Early online date21 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Sept 2020


  • street gangs
  • county lines
  • child criminal exploitation
  • OCGs
  • qualitative research


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