What causes urban street gang violence, and how can we better understand the forces that shape this type of adolescent and youth behavior? For close to a century, social researchers have taken many different paths in attempting to unravel this complex question, especially in the context of large-scale immigrant adaptation to the city. In recent decades these researchers have relied primarily on data gathered from survey quantitative approaches. This review traces some of these developments and outlines how frameworks of analysis have become more integrated and multidimensional, as ethnographic strategies have come into vogue again. For the last couple of decades, either a subculture of violence (i.e., the values and norms of the street gang embrace aggressive, violent behavior) or a routine activities (i.e., hanging around high crime areas with highly delinquent people) explanation dominated the discussion. To broaden and deepen the picture, many other factors need to be considered, such as ecological, socioeconomic, sociocultural, and sociopsychological, particularly in light of the immigrant experience. A multiple marginality framework lends itself to a holistic strategy that examines linkages within the various factors and the actions and interactions among them and notes the cumulative nature of urban street gang violence. Questions that are addressed in this more integrated framework are: Where did they settle? What jobs did they fill? How and why did their social practices and cultural values undergo transformations? When and in what ways did the social environment affect them? Finally, with whom did they interact? In sum, in highlighting the key themes and features of what constitutes urban street gang violence, this review suggests that the qualitative style that relies on holistic information adds important details to traditional quantitative data.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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