Mexican American/Chicano gang members' voice on social control in the context of school and community: a critical ethnographic study in Stockton, California

The purpose of the study was to examine what role social control, in the context of family, school, and community, played in the participants’ decision to join gangs in their adolescent years. The study examined the lives of four male ex-gang members over the age of 18, with extensive criminal records and poor academic histories. Participants were chosen from a Stockton reentry facility where ex-offenders were in the process of improving their lives by breaking the chains of street gang involvement, criminality, and incarceration. The findings revealed that social control administered by family, school, law enforcement, and community all played a significant role in shaping each participant’s decision to join his prospective gang in adolescence. The researcher found that while the family life of the participants was the prime mover in terms of a nudge toward gang life, school was also a place where they were constantly devalued, in large part because educators did not understand them, and the teachers arrived to their classrooms ill equipped for the realities of teaching in schools located in violence-ridden neighborhoods where the youth suffered morbid and multiple exposure to trauma. In fact, the teachers and law enforcement’s inept ways of addressing the participant’s maladaptive behaviors—with a propensity for handling all issues with punitive measures—ended up creating incentives for the participants to join a gang.