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Girlz N GangsWe are the National CSI consulting and training specialist. We are a National and International consulting firm addressing timely issues. We specialize in Cultural Diversity, Violent Street Gangs, Domestic Terrorist, Youth Violence, Weapons on Campus, Bullying, Youth and community motivation.  We are often requested to address: community concerns. Our Clients are: Law Enforcement, Educators, Parole, Probation, Corrections, Community Organizations, Social Service Groups, Senior Citizens, Business Community, Concerned Youth, Faith-Based Organizations

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Girlz N Gangs

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Learn from Rambo and Difficult

Girls are attracted to gangsters because of the respect they think they will acquire once people realize who they are going out with. Little do they know that the guys are only using them for their sexual enjoyment. Very rarely will a gangster have a serious relationship with a girl who "hangs" with the gang. And in almost all cases where the girl gets pregnant, they guy will ditch her and the baby.

Girls do form their own gangs, and also belong to spinoffs of the guys' gangs. The girl gangsters can be just as dangerous and just as organized. They also are initiated in the same manner as the boys; by being V'd in. And don't think for a minute that these beatings aren't every bit as vicious as the beatings that the guys take. In some cases, if a girl wants to hang with the guy's gang, she has to be V'd-in in order to associate with them. This is done by one of several ways. The most popular of those ways being that the girl have sex with every guy in the gang (never using protection); and in some cases, the girl has to have sex with a guy who is HIV infected to prove her loyalty.

Girls N Gangs:

Identifying Risk Factors for Female Gang Involvement
Chanequa J. Walker-Barnes, Rafael M. Arrue, & Craig A. Mason


Nationwide there are an estimated 23,388 gangs with 664,906 members, approximately 3% of whom are female. Little is known about female gang involvement, particularly the factors which motivate adolescent girls to join gangs. Much of the research in this area is characterized by a gender bias with researchers typically ignoring this population or, when they do take them into account, utilizing male gang members as their source of information about females. This study was concerned with assessing adolescentsí perceptions of risk factors for female gang involvement. Particular focus was placed upon family, peer, neighborhood, and intrapersonal influences.



                       31 female students were recruited from an alternative school in a high-crime, urban neighborhood with high levels of gang activity.

                       Mean age = 14.79 (range = 12 to 17)

                       Ethnicity: 26 African-American, 3 Latina, and 2 Jamaican

                       The majority reported direct personal experience with adolescent gangs, either through previous gang membership themselves (16.1%) or through friendships with gang members (61.3%).


                       24 potential risk factors for gang involvement were grouped into 4 categories: Family, Friends, Neighborhood, and Self (i.e., intrapersonal issues).

                       Participants chose the category which they felt had the greatest influence on female gang involvement. and described potential risk factors within that category (first factors which they could independently proffer, then those on the predetermined list).

                       Each item was rated on a 5-point scale ranging from 0="DoesnĎt Matter" to 5="Matters a Lot".

                       This process was repeated for each of the remaining 3 categories.

                       Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and qualitatively analyzed in order to assess differences in the reasons that different participants gave for their ratings of the items.

Among the four broad categories, Peers were ranked as being most influential on female gang


Text Box: involvement, followed by



Std Dev


1.71 1.10


2.68 1.11


2.77 0.96


2.90 0.94



Results of a repeated-measures ANOVA revealed a significant overall difference between categories [F(3, 90) = 6.57, p=.000], with Friends being rated as a significantly greater influence on female gang involvement than the other three categories [Neighborhood t(30) = 3.03, p=.005; Family t(30) = 3.25, p=.003; or Self t(30) = 4.15, p=.000].


Results of a separate repeated-measures analysis of variance detected a significant overall difference within the Friends category [F (5, 150) = 4.96, p=.000]. As indicated in Table 2, post- hoc comparisons noted significant differences between several of the variables. Female gang membership was attributed to factors such as peer pressure, the desire for group affiliation, excitement and money-making opportunities within gangs. Opportunities for heterosexual contacts and "going along with the crowd" were viewed as weaker influences on gang involvement.

Table 2. Results of t-tests comparing items within the Friends category.




Std Dev

Way to
meet guys

Everyone is

Kids in gangs make money


Want to

Other people pressure them to join gangs

2.42 1.57




They want to make friends or join a group

2.19 1.66





1.90 1.54



Kids in gangs make money

1.68 1.62



Looks to them like everyone else is joining gangs

1.48 1.34          

Itís a way to meet guys

0.97 1.25          

Peer Pressure:

"If the friend get in the gang she probably might turn against her. If she donít join, she might turn against her and break their friendship. Or the other gang members might call her, you know, her friends might call her a chicken, you know, because she is not in a gang. Especially if they are your true friends, they donít want to see their friends go to waste so they probably follow their friendís footsteps."

Making Friends:

"Maybe some people think theyíre lonely and they ainít got nobody and they would want

a gang. They would join a gang. They think the gang members will be their friends and wouldnít turn their back on them or nothing. They think theyíll make friends easy by them being in a gang."


"If youíve never robbed anybody before or shoot or whatever and if you join a gang, automatically you know youíre gonna have to get into that kind of lifestyle. And if thatís what excites them, theyíre gonna automatically join that."

Making Money:

"If they are staying in a low class neighborhood and they see their friends in a gang

with nice Tommy Hilfiger clothes and Polo and all this they are going to feel like ĎWell, I got to get what they got to make myself look good.í"



Within the Neighborhood category, a repeated-measures analysis of variance conducted on the individual items also resulted in a significant overall difference [F(5, 140) = 4.75, p=.000]. Results of post hoc analysis comparing the individual items are detailed in Table 3. The need for protection and living in a high crime neighborhood were rated as significantly higher than lack of opportunity, living in a run-down neighborhood, or poverty. The presence of gangs in the neighborhood was also rated significantly higher than living in run-down or poor neighborhoods. Poverty was seen as the weakest influence.


Table 3. Results of t-tests comparing items within the Neighborhood category.







Lack of

Gangs in

Crime in

It gives them safety/protection from other people.

2.74 1.48





Thereís a lot of crime in their neighborhood.

2.61 1.50





There are gangs in their neighborhood.

2.38 1.37




There arenít any other opportunities for them.

1.94 1.41          

They live in a run-down neighborhood.

1.48 1.39          

They live in a poor neighborhood.

1.39 1.36          



"If they live in a neighborhood with a lot of crime, they probably scared that something bad might happen to them if they donít get in a gang. So they need protection."

"If you not in a gang, some gangs will pressure you to be in gangs. Or, you know, if you donít be in gangs with them, theyíll fight you and probably kill you."

High Crime:

"I think the neighborhood cause itís what you see around you. You have to learn from your surroundings. You can learn from what you see around you. Like I see a kid thatís like 3 or 4 years old. If he grows up in the city and he sees people get shot everyday, itís going to be like an 80 or 90 percent chance that heís going to be in a gang cause heís seen it all his life."


A repeated-measures analysis of variance was also conducted on the individual items in the Family category, resulting in a significant overall effect [F(6, 180) = 5.62, p=.000]. As shown in Table 4, affective characteristics of the family were rated significantly higher than those items pertaining to parenting styles or family poverty.


Table 4. Results of t-tests comparing items within the Family category.





Std Dev



Not strict


Not good role


Parents donít care about their kids

2.87 1.28





p=.03 1


People in the family fighting, arguing

2.77 1.48





Parents arenít good role models

2.13 1.38            

Parents are too strict

2.10 1.66            

Parents arenít strict enough

1.58 1.50            

Thereís no father around

1.55 1.50            

Family doesnít have enough money

1.48 1.50            


Parental Affection:

"Itís like you canít love a child too much and you canít love a child too little. You got to give just the right amount. And if you donít love a child, theyíre gonna go astray and find somebody else who will love them."

Family Conflict:

"I wouldnít want to stay in the house if my family was constantly arguing. Iíd want to get a way."


"If people have an abusive family, whether verbally or physically, theyíre gonna be detached from their family and they want to have a family who doesnít abuse them so they want to join a gang."


"A person in your family could just be in a gang and they could come and they could just give them a little confidence to make them join the gang too."

comparisons were made between items. The means and standard deviations of the items comprising this category are indicated in Table 5. Each of the items within the Self category was rated as having a moderate influence on female gang membership.

Table 5. Means and standard deviations of items within Self category.




Std Dev

Itís a way to get respect

2.65 1.56

Being in a gang makes them feel important

2.26 1.46

It makes them feel like they belong

2.03 1.49

It makes them feel good about themselves

2.03 1.33

It builds their self-confidence

2.00 1.59



"They think that people will respect them more if theyíre in a gang. People wonít try to fight them. People wonít try to hurt them because theyíll be scared that they in a gang."

"You have to be rough to get respect from some people."


Peer relationships appear to be the most significant determinant of female gang membership. A girlís decision to join a gang does not simply reflect "going along with the crowd," nor does it result from the desire for heterosexual contacts as previous research suggests. Joining a gang may be a conscious and deliberate decision that often involves weighing several alternatives: losing friends versus keeping them, belonging to a group versus being an outsider.

To some degree gangs may serve an adaptive function by providing the basic means for survival in threatening environments. Girls may become involved in gangs because of previous experiences of victimization or fears that they might be victimized in the future. Some girls may find that the only way to protect themselves from gangs in their neighborhood is to become affiliated with gangs.

Family relationships appear to play a relatively modest role as a motivator for female gang involvement. Affective characteristics of the family may have a larger influence on a girlís decision to join a gang than father absence, family poverty, or parental control. For some girls, becoming involved in gangs may draw the attention, albeit negative, of emotionally distant parents. For others, gangs may provide refuge from unsatisfactory home environments or the opportunity to act out violent behavior patterns learned in the family.

Gang membership may also aid in the formation of identity by providing status and a sense  of   belonging. Some girls may view gang membership as a way to get respect.

**Note: Means of broad categories represent mean rankings on 4-point scale of overall influence, with 1 being highest. Means of individual items within each category represent mean ratings on 5-point scale of influence, with 0="Doesnít Matter" and 4="Matters a Lot."


Female gang-members have not had explicit attention either in scholastic research or as the locus of media concentration. If female gang members are even mentioned at all, they are generally described as merely adjunct to male gang members. Formal academic research in crime and delinquency focusing on young women has been erratic at best and shallow at worst.

Some research contends that many of the existing theories on crime and delinquency can be adapted to explain female behavior (Figueria-McDonaough and Barton 1985) (Sommers and Baskin 1993) Other research has indeed been adapted, sometimes in the most outrageous, if not senseless methods. For example, some data is weighted. In other words, each female's response counts for 2.3 persons because fewer females have been interviewed in that or in past studies! Thus, data are extrapolated based on the numbers of males surveyed and conclusions and recommendations are at least tentatively drawn based upon those deduced figures.

Unfortunately, Latina female gang members have been overlooked not only by researchers, but also by the designers and directors of programs developed to deal with problems of gangs (Moore 1994:1124). This is a profoundly distressing oversight since it is the female gang members who more often than not end up with children to rear. Statistically their babies will also be gang members one day--an intergenerational duplication that might be curtailed by a suitable and timely program for young mothers.

Actually, the first truly large and intensive formal academic study on gang members involved 1,313 separate gangs--Thrasher's survey in l936. However, he summarily dismissed the girl gang members stating only that there were a half dozen female gangs out of the l,313 in his survey, and that participation in the gang culture for the young women was auxiliary in nature. In other words, their involvement was purely for social and sexual activities, which at that time may very well have been the case.
Other research indicates that for a long time girls had little success gaining status in the gang world (Bowker and Klein l983). This may still be partially true today, and may even be the reason for separate girl gangs. Nevertheless, female gang-affiliation has grown and is in itself an established entity to be dealt with.


In the current study, the males did not want the females vigorously participating with them in gang-related activities. As a matter of fact, many of the women nagged their boyfriends not to get involved in one incident or another, and many seemed always to be nagging their boyfriends about their gang-style way of life. Some women reportedly nagged their boyfriends until they got out of the gang!


David: Sometimes a girl is in a car when something goes down, but it wasn't supposed to be like that. Somebody just happens to be there sometimes. Usually--well, I personally don't want them around.

Alvaro: Speaking for myself, when I have to -- like -- it's business you know? It's not party time.


The female gang-affiliated members came from the same dysfunctional environment and noxious types of homes as the male members interviewed in this research.

They expressed a preference for gang affiliated males, and a good many voiced distaste for men who wore suits and ties. Others said they weren't sure why they were attracted to the gang guys. Many had not been treated right, yet they went back to the gang male, or became involved with another one. On the positive, though satirical side, one female said, "They don't let no one mess with them," and this toughness was, at least for her, a desirable trait.

Many females had poor relationships with their parents.

Angela: "I hate my mother, and I hate my step-father even more. Hijola!"

Comments of this sort were commonplace.

Rebecca: "You can depend on the homies. They're like family to me. They're there for me. Anything I need -- a place to stay."

In several cases, disgusted parents had actually thrown the girls out of their houses--literally casting them out to the street. In the Latino neighborhoods surveyed, the parents word was consistently tested by gang-affiliated youths. Fights and screaming bouts were common; finally, one day the parent(s) literally seem to give up and kick the wayward youngster out.

Banishment from one's parents' home appears to have greater shame and stigma attached to it in the Hispanic community than it might in the mainstream culture, where youths leave the nest early usually to get an apartment and be on their own. Here, the children remain with the family longer. The Latino (father especially) tends to stick to his/her word and enforces banishment once it has been pronounced.

Unfortunately, with no place to go, the evicted individual goes to a friend's house, or to a converted garage, to a friend's apartment, or a sympathetic friend's parents' home. Often they take in the dejected youth, who is also a close friend of their own daughter or son.

Other banished youths simply experience life on the streets for a few days and return home to make an uneasy peace. Sometimes they challenge the parent(s) and intimidate them, so they can come and go as they please. Others simply promise to repent --a penance which lasts until the next gang activity. Other gang girls live on the streets most of the time, but have a place to go to when they so choose. Some live with a male boyfriend. In some of the latter situations, the girls appeared to act as virtual servants and valets to the male. One said she liked a guy that tells her what to do and when to do it. Others felt protected under this type of tyranny. "He's the boss," said another live-in.

Still others hate males who are bossy and made derisive comments
about such women.

Elena: She's so "tapada," he even tells her what to wear!



A good many gang women become hard-core drug abusers, i.e. heroine users who are referred to as "tecatas." When most reach the age of 30, they have a child or two in tow and a good many fade out of gang life as a result.

Those that did not, often had expensive drug addictions to support. They focused almost exclusively on drug getting, dealing, and such other related activities much to the misfortune and endangerment of the children both physically as well as psychologically.

Many younger gang girls said with contempt that their mothers were drug addicts. Two different girls blatantly said, "My mother was a whore!" Clearly, these are the dysfunctional parents raising the future gang members of society who may, in turn, provide the future noxious homes, and on and on!

What Moore has called the "cholo, or street-oriented family " is one in which family members are engaged in illicit activity. (Moore,1994:1117) This "cholo" style family, as it were, generally fails to exercise very much control over its children. Instead, "cholo" parents teach them to hustle and to operate like con-artists whenever the opportunity to swindle someone out of money or goods presents itself. Children are often instructed to lie to social workers, law enforcement representatives, teachers and other authorities to cover for their wayward parents who know next to nothing about parenting. These parents even dress their toddlers in gang attire, and doom their babies before they have so much as learned their first words!

In the traditional Mexican culture, it is undesirable but certainly more acceptable for boys to be out roaming the streets; it is never appropriate behavior for females. Therefore, Latinas who either join a gang or in any way affiliate themselves with the cholo lifestyle, are subsequently stigmatized by the more traditional Mexican community (Moore l994:1117). The current study concurs. In the present field investigation, parents and members of extended family who were interviewed had nothing but negative remarks concerning the "Cholas"--the gang girls.

On the other hand, the young women had completely rejected the hardworking ethic, the good wife and mother role model so common among Hispanic women, for the Cholo lifestyle. They, in turn, had nothing positive to say about the more traditional women either.

The term "Cholo," which also refers to a fashion selection and make-up style, is used by the community members to refer to a type of Latina who more than likely is directly or indirectly affiliated with a gang or gang members.

There has been historically and frequently a good deal of bad blood between barrio residents and law enforcement. Then if there is also friction at home, the gang subculture is skillful at socializing many youths to their value system. For many of these teens --not just the females-- their Mexican self-concept has already been altered. They recognize that they do not belong to the mainstream Anglo culture, but they know they do not belong to the Mexican culture either. Those who have ever travelled to Mexico to visit grandparents and other relatives have soon learned that they are considered outsiders in their ancestral land as well. Their speech is ridiculed and they are called "pochos." Thus, Mexican values about home and family do not carry very much weight for some youngsters.

Different individuals experience varying degrees of cultural conflict. Those who experience severe marginalization are easy targets for the gang paradigm, especially if parental influence is lacking or not respected by the youngster. Young women living on the margins of both cultures are easy prey.

Frequently such young women are confronted with a double standard at home. In many Mexican culture homes, it is normal for boys to be treated more leniently than girls, enjoying more privileges, being allowed to stay out later, and even dominating their sisters who must often iron their shirts to perfection and wait on them at the dinner table. In the traditional Mexican family, the joys of motherhood and family security are highly prized. Typically, Mom always seems happy and both she and Dad are primarily concerned with providing for the children. The family is sacred. In the traditional Mexican family, Mom also stays at home and cooks and sews--even today with the economy virtually forbidding this practice any longer. In some Mexican homes, Mom has to work; nevertheless, she returns to the nest and puts in another shift cooking, washing, ironing, and nurturing.

Many young women are fed up with this double standard and expressed their exasperation vociferously. Given a few other displeasures and grumblings about home, and with the pressures provided by poverty stricken environments, they become likely targets for gang recruitment. In addition, in many of the homes, Dads were not always present and if they were, they were not necessarily able to provide very much of anything for their children. Some Mom's were not at all happy with cooking and sewing. Others were themselves in gangs at one time.

Many of these youngsters have witnessed or experienced beatings, and a number of forms of parental violence.

Connie: "Mom always got between me and my Dad and she'd catch the belt in her hand sometimes so it wouldn't hit me again. Sometimes my Dad would get so mad he'd start swinging at both of us. One time my older brother beat me up till I was black and blue"

In the traditional Mexican family, "spare the rod; spoil the child," is still very much in style. The gang girls often reported other kinds of abuse as well.

Reina: "My Dad beat me so bad, I decided to forget it, man."

Carmen: "She's had black and blue marks all her life--since I've known her anyway."

Interviewer: Did you ever get a beating like that too?

Carmen: No --my Dad left us when I was three and my Mom never hit us. I got grounded a lot, but that's all.

Reina: "I never go back there to see my folks. I see my sister once in a while and I feel bad for her, but I never go back there. I won't either. No way."

Perhaps we need healthy homes first to produce healthy children. Instead, we have sick communities and noxious homes.

The double standard exists interestingly enough even among those parents who were either gang members or peripherally associated themselves. Their restrictions for their girls are much greater than for the boys. In other research, these restrictions sounded to other investigators like a litany of traditionalism, of parents trying to keep their daughters from being "bad" girls (Moore 1995:94).

Ironically even the young women who came from "cholo" families reported a number of traditional values imposed on them by parents who were themselves utterly out of sinc with Mexican culture. A few gang girls had been run-aways at one time or another, but not in the sense commonly portrayed on the news wherein a girl from Nebraska runs away to the streets of Hollywood. When these girls run-away, they generally go to a friend's, relative's, or boyfriend's --sometimes in another city, but nonetheless to a given destination with a place of refuge at the other end.

For many of the gang girls, having their own child leads them to rethink their objectives at least momentarily. Many bow out of the gang at this juncture in their lives. Collecting data on this aspect of girl gang life certainly warrants further study, but was beyond the scope of the interviews in the current investigation.


A very brief comparison of biker women and Latino girl gang members indicates that male gang members have far more characteristics in common whether African-American, Latino, Asian or White, than female gang members. It should also be noted that not all "cholas" are necessarily gang affiliated. Being a "chola" can be merely a fashion and/or sexually permissive lifestyle statement without meaning that the young woman is also gang affiliated.

However, studies on biker women show some interesting differences between them and Latina gang members. Biker women are a bit older as a group, ranging in age from mid-20's going well into their 30's. They are often "cash cows" or working women, taking jobs in topless bars, nude bars, beer bars and such; and less commonly in regular jobs as secretaries and factory workers. (Hopper and Moore, 1990) (Sikes l994). A "cash cow" is a female who works to provide for herself and her children, but implicit in the term is a female who also provides for a male who is not steadily employed.

On the other hand, "Cholas" --who are also referred to as "homegirls"-- are younger, live at home, with a boyfriend, or on the street from friend's house to friend's house. If they work, they are employed in mini-malls, fast-food joints, small shops, as baby-sitters, as food and cocktail waitresses, and at other similar, but less exotic "regular" jobs. If the "homegirls" continue to be associated with gang members into their 30's, they are less and less affiliated with the gang especially if they have children. However, it is common for a young mother on welfare with children to be supporting a boyfriend with her welfare warrants.

As an important aside, "homegirls" as a term is also used to refer to young women from a particular barrio whether or not they are engaged in any kind of shady lifestyle. For example, even those young women who are currently matriculated in colleges would be considered "homegirls" by other young people in their former neighborhoods.

Whereas biker women are generally more widely traveled, homegirls have usually not gone much beyond their city or county. Some reportedly made an excursion to Mexico as children with other family members to visit relatives. There they discovered their marginalization --that they were neither acceptable to the U. S. mainstream culture, nor to the Mexican mainstream. There they often got in touch with their feeling of disdain for traditional Mexican culture as well. After that excursion most never seemed to go very far from their barrio again.

As the homegirls get older, they sometimes leave their children with a grandmother, aunt, or more stable sister freeing themselves up to tag along with a male companion. The literature suggests that a good many biker women transport their off spring where ever they go. (Hopper and Moore 1990). Also, some of the literature suggests that Latina gang affiliated women continue into their 20's and 30's (Galindo 1993). However, in the current research, except for those with expensive drug habits to support, by the time the women interviewed in this sample were in their 30's they invariably had two or three children, at which point the Latino family value system seemed to kick in, at least to some extent. (Women over the age of 24 were eliminated from the sample because the age variable was set at 14 to 24 although many participated in post-questionnaire discussions).

Ironically, many of the gang girls with children did not want their youngsters to be in a gang when they grew up, although statistically they probably will be. Others didn't seem to care one way or the other! Several said, "They can do whatever they want," or "It's up to them."

Many women 30 years old and older, simply gave up the "cholo" and gang lifestyle to mind their kids (not always well). A few had actually been able to find full-time jobs; others were receiving AFDC (Assistance to Families with Dependent Children) or welfare allotments. But surprisingly enough fewer than stereotypically thought go on welfare at least among those interviewed in this sample. Three "homegirls" who had continued into their 30's were referred to as "tecatas" (heroin users) by others in the neighborhood.

The number of Latina young women who actually join violent street gangs is, of course, unknown. But ultimately gang membership for these young women becomes a harsh and abusive experience leading only to lowered self-esteem, degradation, and despair.
Choosing names like "Playgirls" for their gang, some women briefly find glamour, attention, friends and protection within the gang. In the long run, they end up shattered by the episode according to their own testimony. Other data concurs (Sikes l994). In other research, many of the girls were experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder as well (Guevara dissertation 1992).

For some ex-cholas, a realization eventually guided them back to their families so that they might provide a better life for their children than they could as gang-girls. However, in most cases their families continue to live in dysfunctional environments, many times in noxious homes. Ironically, in most cases of this sort the very home that ravaged mom's early childhood and youth experiences is bequeathed to her children to ruin their lives as well. Other young women stay away from the home in which they grew up and go on welfare making them the objects of derision among the majority of Latino tax-payers. These women also perpetuate negative stereotypes concerning Latinas, their children, and the welfare syndrome.

Many younger gang member "girlfriends" who claimed to me gang members themselves did indeed seem to be little more than the sexual chattel of male gang members. They also served as incentives in recruiting, and as previously mentioned, some were referred to as "party animals" by the males.


Most of the "homegirls" have children (94%) and many will raise them alone without a husband, on the income of some other member of their family, or with AFDC warrants (Campbell 1990:182). If they feel trapped and powerless, it is for good reason. They have quadrupled their handicap via racial discrimination, class discrimination, gender discrimination, and as single mothers as well!

Cholas who had a child by a male gang member appeared to have no expectations of marriage. Some said they didn't want to get married.

Ana: "Who wants to be a housewife in the projects? I'd rather be alone."

Perhaps they really do not desire a marriage to some of these men, but more than likely it is the men who are unwilling to make a commitment. Some of the women's conversations sounded a bit like "sour grapes" and may have been merely excuses to save face in an environment where reputation and maintaining the image of toughness are revered among the female gang members with as much fanaticism as among the male members.

A good deal of the current research also suggests that girl gangs are on the increase and not just as auxiliaries of male gangs, but as highly violent entities in their own right.


Violent crimes among women include terrorism, rape, murder, theft, prostitution and gang participation. Many of the women interviewed admittedly participated in muggings and other thefts especially as their economic needs escalated because of loss of job, being thrown out of parents' houses, and separating from or breaking up with a male boyfriend.

That women have gotten more violent was probably first brought to the public's attention in an article entitled "You've Come a Long Way, Moll" which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, January 25, 1990 stipulating that the number of violent crimes had risen 41.5% for women while only 23.1 % for men. According to the article, young women were no longer committing crimes as accomplices to males, but as full-fledged criminals on their own initiative. The types of crimes most frequently mentioned in that article were stealing clothes, dealing drugs, and weapons-related violations. More girls are carrying guns and knives nowadays than ever before.

FBI data indicate that arrests of girls for murder are up as are arrests for robbery and aggravated assault.

In a study on African American women gang members, females were found to be more violent and more oriented to male crime than ever before (Fishman 1988:28). Later substantiation of these findings appeared in "Sisters Doin' It for Themselves." (Lauderback, Hansen & Waldorf l992). Similar outcomes among Latinas have also been established, at least in New York if not yet in the Los Angeles area (Campbell 1990).

In the current investigation, more female gang members used heroin than non-gang affiliated females. However, both gang and non-gang affiliated had used various types of drugs. Unfortunately, the extent of that drug abuse was beyond the range of issues being examined in the current study, but the topic came up incidentally in conversations frequently enough to warrant mention. Certainly, the "cholo" lifestyle promotes drug use.

In the last year or two, television has featured female gang members but only shows like Larry King Live, Oprah, and Geraldo Rivera. In the current study, no hyper-violent, amoral girls like those seen on TV came to the fore. However, many admitted participating in fights often concerning a male, or in support of another member's personal altercation with someone. Daring someone to act out appeared to be a frequent development. Endorsements such as "you just try it" and "avientate" or "go for it," were uttered when one threatened to smack a beer bottle in the face of another.

Although some social scientists claim that girls are more violent today than they have been in the past, there is little quantitative or qualitative evidence supporting the new violent female offender hypothesis according (Chesney-Lind 1993:339-340). Certainly for Latinas or "cholas" the data is not readily available.

What emerges is a more complex picture wherein girls solve their problems of gender, race and class through gang membership. This concurs with other research as well (Williams 1992:88). Possibly their violent behavior has in other decades been largely ignored, whereas today it may even be somewhat exaggerated by sensationalist journalism such as the daytime talk shows.

In this investigation, Latina gang and non-gang affiliated seemed to function in large measure as auxiliary, or as accomplices to males going along with criminal activity committed by the males.
Girls' crimes appeared to be still largely "traditionally female" prostitution, shoplifting, running away, fighting with other girls, and drug related crimes. Actual scuffles among these young women involved knife assaults and/or scratching and kicking types of fights which reportedly occurred frequently sometimes against other women and often against males as well.

The female's path to gang membership appears to be a bit different from that of males. Many of these young women adhere to a curious admixture of traditional values as well as gang values. Some shun traditional values and deliberately behave in what appears to be the most diametrically opposed manner to that prescribed by traditional Mexican values. But ironically most espoused traditional Mexican family values in what they wanted for their future even if that was not what they had in their present.

In the current research, most gang girls came from less conventional Mexican families. They seemed to be from more dysfunctional families, sometimes from "cholo" families. Many of their parents were at one time themselves gang-members, or associates of one kind or another. Other gang-affiliated females came from homes with parents who have given up, or who never cared very much in the first place.

Much of the current study concurs with older studies (Moore 1990)(Vigil 1991). The gang has been and still appears to be a welcome source of support for "cholas" (Harris l994).
Ironically, in view of the ill treatment, the infidelities and abuses the women receive at the hands of the males, it is surprising that so many women, gang as well as non-gang affiliated, found the gang members so appealing.


Research suggests that children of former gang girls, of cholos and cholas, are inclined to be chips off the old block and soon develop their mother's and father's cholo lifestyles (Moore 1123). On the one hand traditional Mexican values mandate that young women not associate with the cholos; thus, girls from cholo families or whose ties to the traditional family have been ruptured really have no place else to go for support, but to the gang. The cholo family and lifestyle, thus, is encapsulated--they are the "bad element" within the poor Mexican-community.

Yet the cholo look in apparel, hairstyle, and mannerisms is pervasive and copied by many youths who are non-gang affiliated. On occasion, one sees an adorable three year old dressed in baggies, or a 10 year old girl with a chola hair-do and make-up.

Of course, the gang look is really only a l990's extension of the pachuco look, which while out of date, is a pervasive cholo/gang/drug subculture that tends to be inherited if a brother or sister, father or mother was once a part of it.
While the current barrio vernacular "cholos/cholas" or "homeboys" "homegirls" or "homies" may have changed, many other detrimental circumstances and events have not (Galindo 1993).

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