The Ties That Bind: Desistance From Gangs

David C. Pyrooz, Scott Decker, Vincent Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


The present study conceptualizes gang membership in a life-course framework. The authors focus specifically on an understudied aspect of gang membership-desistance. This study's goal is to further develop our understanding of the process of desisting from gangs. This is done by examining the social and emotional ties that former gang members maintain with their previous gang network. Using a detention sample of juvenile arrestees, the authors first compare differences between 156 current and 83 former gang members at a bivariate level. This is followed by a multivariate analysis of former gang members that (a) examines factors that predict increases of ties to the former gang network and (b) illustrates the importance of gang ties by exploring their effects on victimization. The findings shed light on the correlates and consequences of persisting gang ties. In particular, it is found that ties have direct positive effects on recent victimizations. More important, it is found that longer lengths of desistance matter to the extent that ties are diminished; that is, length of desistance operates indirectly through gang ties to reduce victimization. The study concludes with a discussion of the conceptual and policy implications surrounding gang desistance and how lingering ties to the former gang network are crucial to understanding the desistance process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-516
Number of pages26
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • desistance
  • gang membership
  • gang programming
  • gang ties
  • life-course processes
  • reentry
  • victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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