The social and legal context of female youth crime : a study of girls in gangs
Aulakh, Harpreet Kaur
Given the relative lack of information about female gang membership in Canada and the hidden nature of this population, a qualitative approach for understanding the lives of female gang members, through a life course perspective guided by feminist standpoint epistemology is utilized in this dissertation. The data for this study are obtained from interviews with fifteen girls and young women who claimed youth gang membership in their lives, from the cities of Saskatoon and Edmonton. .The critical feminist perspective serves as the theoretical framework for this study. It directs us to an understanding in which girls are regarded as active agents in their own lives and who are striving to better their lives albeit with the limited options available to them in the face of locally available constructions of opportunity and possibility. The analyses reflect the lived experiences of the respondents and illuminate the ways in which the personal troubles and daily lives of respondents are explicitly overshadowed by larger public issues. Through critical analysis, this study draws attention to the ways in which girls’ experiences of ageism, racism, classism, and sexism interact, resulting in social exclusion, isolation from social institutions, and a subsequent involvement with youth gangs. .The study reveals a heterogeneity of respondents’ experiences especially with respect to being treated as equals by their male counterparts. From the analysis, it is evident that gangs are highly gendered groups in which gender hierarchies force girls to find ways both to create personas of toughness and independence through participation in violent activities yet also to display appropriate feminine behaviours of sexually non-promiscuous females. Importantly, the decisions to leave the gang are triggered by the negative affects of gang life. Once out of the gang, the girls under study seemed to refocus their efforts toward educational opportunities and obtaining job-related skills. In the end, my research indicates that awareness about the dangers of gang life including the negative consequences of gang membership need to form a core of prevention programs, especially those designed for younger girls and children.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeWotherspoon, Terry; Wormith, J. Stephen; Schissel, Bernard; Chunn, Dorothy; Zong, Li
Copyright DateApril 2008