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Editorial: Even short-term gang members lose long-term

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A recent study gives new meaning to “gang mentality.”

Because, mentally, gang members – even short-timers – are more likely to become lifelong losers.

The University of Washington followed 808 fifth-graders in 1985. The subjects were from 18 public schools in Seattle’s high-crime neighborhoods.

After a 30-year study, some of the findings were obvious: Those who joined gangs as youths were at greater risk of committing crimes, using drugs and going to prison as adults.

The study also showed numerous other problems for the 21 percent who admitted to joining a gang, though half said they bolted after three years or less.

Not surprisingly, those who joined a gang were half as likely to graduate from high school.

But even later in life, former gang members – compared to their peers who stayed out of gangs – were more than 1½times more likely to receive public assistance, three times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and more likely to suffer from depression anxiety and poor physical health. They were also more apt to be victims of violence.

The research paper, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, concludes that gang membership sends kids on a long journey of problems throughout their adult life.

Those who might defend a brief gang experience as a youthful rite of passage would do well to consider these long-term effects.

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