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Gang Violence: Criminal Justice Research Essay


Gang violence has been studied for decades, which led to the development of various theories concerning the matter. Researchers often see gangs as organizations, but there is still the lack of attention towards such aspects as gang violence, its nature, and peculiarities (Decker, 2000). In his article, Decker (2000) attempts to fill in the gap concerning the areas mentioned above. This paper includes a brief analysis of the article with the focus on its validity and reliability.

The primary purpose of the article in question was to explore “processes and mechanisms” that contributed to the escalation of gang violence as well as its spread (Decker, 2000, p. 160). The researcher tried to answer the question concerning the role of threat in the spread and escalation of violence. Another research question is associated with the role collective behavior plays in the escalation and spread of violence. The key concepts studied were the gang and gang violence.

It is necessary to note that the author provides the conceptual and operational definitions of one of the key concepts (gang violence). Decker (2000) defines gang violence as acts involving weapons use and assault. The author adds that it is retaliatory in nature. As for the operational definition, the central aspects of the classification used are mentioned. It is noted that the acts associated with retaliation, membership, reputation and revenge were included in the study. These definitions can be regarded as effective since the researcher concentrates on the central aspects of gang violence. Researchers agree that gang violence is associated with reputation and membership as well as the extension of some influence on a particular territory (Carlock & Lizotte, 2015). At the same time, the researcher pays specific attention to the threat as an essential element of gang violence. Therefore, it could be possible to include abuse and intimidation in the definition of the concept (gang violence).

When it comes to the validity of the study, it is necessary to consider different types of validity. Face validity shows whether the study measures what it intends to measure (Picardi & Masick, 2013). The face validity of the study in question is high as gang violence is quite a specific term that reflects the phenomenon in question. The content validity of the study is also strong as the study focuses on acts of violence performed by gangs rather than individuals. Therefore, the study manages to focus on the subject-matter of the research. The construct validity is associated with the measurements and methods utilized (Picardi & Masick, 2013). Decker (2000) uses survey questionnaires and interviews to collect data. This method is appropriate as the use of violence in gangs can be measured by people who engage in violent acts. In simple terms, gang members’ views on violence are instrumental in defining the peculiarities of gang violence spread and escalation. Finally, the criterion-related validity is quite strong as well. The author analyzes gang members’ perspectives on their use of violence. Such criteria as the threat and sense of belonging (membership) are appropriate criteria to assess reasons for violent behavior.

The study can also be characterized by a high degree of reliability. Decker (2000) measures gang violence through the analysis of gang members’ participation in different kinds of fights, as well as their reasoning for taking part in such activities. Reliability could be checked with the help of such techniques as test-retest, parallel forms, and internal consistency reliability (Picardi & Masick, 2013). As for the test-retest reliability, it could be possible to ask the same questions to the same participants. The answers are likely to be the same as the participants’ views on their membership, their effort to fit in and prove their worth will remain unchanged. The parallel forms reliability is associated with the use of questionnaires completed by two groups. Items describing gang violence and its spread can be divided into two sets of questions. These questions can be given to different groups, and the correlation is likely to become evident. The internal consistency reliability is associated with the consistency gang members would answer a set of questions concerning gang violence and its escalation and spread. The vast majority of the participants would use similar concepts, values or even words to describe their engagement in violent acts.

Decker (2000) concludes that gang violence is closely related to the concept of collective behavior where members of subgroups use violence as a means of ensuring their sense of belonginess and survival. When the level of violence becomes excessive, members tend to leave the group and form their own gangs characterized by a less significant degree of violence. These findings shed light on the spread of violence. The increase in cases associated with gang violence may mean the shift in the society. It is possible to assume that more and more people are unable to find their place in the community and the society, so they form subgroups that help them feel a part of a world that is clear and acceptable.

In conclusion, it is possible to note that the article in question provides valuable insights into the spread of gang violence. The researcher uses valid and reliable methods to address the research questions. It is clear that the rise of gang violence is associated with the lack of opportunities for people to realize their potential in the society.

References

Carlock, A. L., & Lizotte, A. (2015). Gangs, guns, and violence: Synergistic effects. In S. H. Decker, & D. C. Pyrooz (Eds.), Voices from the field: Readings in criminal justice research (pp. 178-193). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Decker, S. H. (2000). Collective and normative features of gang violence. In C. Pope, R. Lovell, & S.G. Brandl (Eds.), Voices from the field: Readings in criminal justice research (pp. 160-181). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Picardi, C. A., & Masick, K. D. (2013). Research methods: Designing and conducting research with a real-world focus. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Gang Violence: Criminal Justice Research'. 20 November.

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