Fast Focus: 'Are you concerned about gangs in the Tri-Cities?' A sense of belonging

March 2, 2014 

Yes I am, but rather than seeing gangs as the problem, I think we should realize they're a symptom -- probably what many others more educated in psychology and sociology have already said.

Gangs are affinity groups and they're generally unhealthy groups that engage in destructive behavior. Every person's first affinity group should be a healthy family where love and respect are given and received. From there "normal" people add affinity groups such as school teams, employers, churches, political parties, etc. These all become part of a self image or identity. With no healthy family, gangs offer young people with little or no identity a supportive (while destructive) group that they can identify with. It's a human need to feel like you belong somewhere.

So, if we're concerned about gangs -- and we should be -- the correct response is to ask ourselves what we can do to make families more supportive and harmonious. This, in turn, could suggest we look at poverty, substance abuse, parents working too many hours to avoid poverty (or get rich -- rich kids get into gangs too), and possibly ways our schools or other community resources can counteract less-than-ideal family situations.

-- KEN AMES, Pasco

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