Origins of Navajo Youth Gangs

  • Henderson A
  • Kunitz S
  • Levy J
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Abstract

The origins of Navajo youth gangs can be traced to the pastoral economy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when young men gathered at public ceremonies engaged in drinking, fighting, and other gang-like behavior. But these groups lacked the continuity and self-identification of later gangs. During the 1950's many Navajo youths attended boarding schools; this provided a setting for rivalries with youths from other areas and backgrounds while increasing peer group cohesion. As education shifted to on-reservation schools in the 1960's, self-identified gangs began to form in the towns and communities on and near the reservation in the 1970's as adult supervision declined and a youth culture emerged. Interviews with gang members provide support for Terrie Moffitt's theory that gangs form around a core of antisocial individuals.

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Authors

  • Author Eric Henderson

  • Stephen J Kunitz

  • Jerrold E Levy

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