Situating Females in UK Gangs
: An Exploratory Study

  • Sarah Elliott

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Until recently the involvement of females in gangs has been a relatively neglected area of inquiry for academic research and criminal justice policy in the UK (Campbell, 1991; Chesney-Lind, 1993). In contrast the media have become increasingly interested in female gang involvement in the UK reporting stereotypical images of girl ‘gangsters’ as malicious violent aggressors (Young, 2009). This intense media scrutiny has distracted from the ‘necessary and long overdue focus’ of research into female gang membership (Chesney-Lind and Hagedorn, 1999). Research that has acknowledged females participation in gangs has downplayed their involvement to an auxiliary capacity .
    Based on interviews with female gang members and experts in the field, the current research aims to address this gap in knowledge by unravelling the roles of females in mixed gender gangs across the UK. In contrast to existing literature, the current research proposes that females play a significant role within gangs that are distinctly separate from their male counterparts. Results revealed a typology of female gang membership where females’ roles were intrinsically tied up with their relationships to male members. Increased emphasis is placed on negative peer associations and lack of social control mechanisms as a precursor for female gang membership than ethnic and economic marginality highlighted by previous research (Thrasher, 1927; National Youth Gang Centre, 2000). Findings indicate female gang members operate within an environment of conflict in which they act as both perpetrators and victims of serious crime and violence.
    The current research therefore advocates that an increased emphasis should be placed on the gendered nature of gang membership, where gender differences are highlighted as opposed to ignored or downplayed (Batchelor, 2009). The research therefore concludes that policies and interventions aimed at tackling the female gang problem in the UK should uphold an appreciation of the dual-role performed by gang involved females as both offender and victim.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorFiona Brookman (Supervisor), Katy Holloway (Supervisor) & Trevor Bennett (Supervisor)

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