Katherine De Vito, DSW, LCSW

Rutgers University Doctor of Social Work Program

390 George Street, 6th Floor

New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Telephone: (848) 932-8481

Fax: (732) 932-6720

Seeking a Secure Base: Gangs as Attachment Figures

Katherine De Vito

Study Purpose

De Vito, K. (2019). Seeking a secure base: Gangs as attachment figures. Qualitative Social Work. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1177/1473325019852659

Source: NPR

                 Study Findings                 

Participants of the study all experienced a lack of family consistency with their primary caregivers. There was a disruption in their attachment. 

Source: Nicolas Enriquez, The Daily News

Participants felt that gangs were a replacement family. When the primary attachment figure is absent, the youth looked outside to a gang to fill that void and provide what was missing, such as attention, support, affection, and a sense of unity. 

Source: MSpencer Green AP US News

Some participants felt as if they had no other option but to join a gang because of social environment factors. Joining a gang seemed like it was an inevitable life course. With no secure attachment at home, participants had to look outside the family and gangs were readily available in the environment. 

Source: Boston Globe/Chron

Participants reached a point where they wanted a better life for themselves and wanted to embrace another life and a complete turnaround. They realized that staying in the gang lifestyle would only lead to a grim outcome like death or jail. 

Source: Marvin Recinos/Chron