Youth violence and gang involvement are severe public health issues. The purpose of this study was to examine the roles and benefits of recreation in the prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation programs addressing youth gang involvement and violence. Data collection involved 39 interviews with former gang members and practitioners working with current or previous gang members, predominantly from the Chicago metropolitan area. The data were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory. The findings revealed key qualities boosting the preventative, interventional, and rehabilitative capacities of recreation in programs addressing gang involvement. These qualities included attractiveness, affordability, cooperation, consistency/perseverance, structure/supervision, mentoring/coaching, and targeting. Programs that share these qualities offer numerous benefits, such as exposing youth to positive role models, nurturing prosocial relationships, teaching life skills, offering diversion and safety, and leading to meaningful reappraisals among youth. This study emphasizes that recreation can be used effectively in a multiapproach toolkit addressing youth gang involvement and violence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management