Skip to main content

Preventing gang and youth violence: A review of risk and protective factors

This report is based on the findings of academic research concerned with young people living in community settings, with a focus on risk/protective factors in relation to youth violence and gang involvement. The studies reviewed were those that repeatedly measured the risk/protective factors of the same group of young people over a long period of time. The advantage of these studies is that they are able to measure risk/protective factors before youth violence or gang involvement has taken place, meaning that we can be more confident about the association between risk/protective factors and these behaviours. Therefore this review considers the question of the risk of future outcomes rather than the question of whether someone is currently in a gang or committing offences of youth violence.

The majority of findings presented in this review are from longitudinal studies based in the USA. However, these are complemented by longitudinal studies in the UK. Cross national comparisons of the findings of these longitudinal studies suggest that there are more similarities than differences in risk/protective factors for serious youth violence and gang involvement identified by studies in different national contexts. This suggests that we can have confidence in the generalisability of the findings presented in this review (see, for example, Farrington and Loeber, 1999).

There is also a growing body of evidence that as well as risk/protective factors being similar between nations for offending behaviour, they are also similar across generations, i.e. there are intergenerational similarities in risk factors for offending (see, for example, Farrington, Ttofi, Crago and Coid, 2015).