Acculturation, ethnic identity and resilience against gang-related activities in Latino youth

Vanessa M Spelman, Pace University


Acculturation and ethnic identity development are crucial components of development for individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds. The impact of these developmental processes on psychological health is well documented. Research has also documented the relationship between acculturation and ethnic identity with delinquent, aggressive, or problematic behaviors. This study explored aspects of acculturation and ethnic identity as potential resilience or risk-factors with regard to gang involvement. The relationships between acculturation, acculturative stressors, ethnic identity and gang-affiliated activities in Latino youth were examined. Keeping in mind that the term Latino incorporates a vast range of cultures and heterogeneity, this project attempted to understand the thread of this group while not undermining the richness and diversity within it. The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure-Revised (MEIM-R); the Acculturative Stress Inventory for Children (ASIC); the Acculturation, Habits, and Interests Multicultural Scale for Adolescents (AHIMSA); the Acculturative Dissonance Scale, the Gang Membership Inventory (GMI); and the Attitudes toward Gangs Survey were administered to Latino children ranging from 4th - 8th grade. Results revealed that high levels of ethnic identity exploration were significantly correlated with low levels of gang affiliation. Perceived Discrimination as a measure of acculturative stress was also significantly related to higher levels of gang affiliation. No significant findings were found in the relationships between acculturation stages and gang affiliation; although participants in the Assimilated stage demonstrated the highest gang affiliation levels and those in the Separated stage showed the lowest. The findings provide a first step in identifying valuable information regarding protective factors against gang affiliation for Latino youth in the form of exploration of their ethnic identity and minimizing experiences of perceived discrimination. Implications for culturally sensitive, preventive efforts with Latino youth towards decreasing their involvement in gangs are discussed.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Spelman, Vanessa M, "Acculturation, ethnic identity and resilience against gang-related activities in Latino youth" (2013). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3577909.



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