To effectively prevent youth from joining gangs it is essential to understand these risk factors. For example, being the child of a single-parent who is often absent from the home and lacks adequate support, can be considered a risk factor. Gang involvement is a process that happens over time. This process is influenced by the life trajectory and individual, familial and social experiences of a young person.
Unless appropriate actions are taken to address the factors that result in more serious crime or gang involvement, early negative life experiences and subsequent involvement in crime will only reinforce the path towards continued delinquency. The identification of the specific risk factors associated with youth gang involvement helps us determine where and how to focus prevention efforts. This gang effect adds to the social and family risk factors that may be present prior to joining a gang. In addition to preventing youth from joining gangs, it is important to reduce membership duration for youth who belong to a gang and to provide appropriate services drug treatment, employment and educational opportunities once they leave the gang.
Strengthening protective factors plays an important role in reducing youth gang involvement. Protective factors are positive influences that mitigate the impact of risk factors and decrease the likelihood of problem behaviour. This initiative is most concerned with young people who come together to engage in profit-driven criminal activity and violence. With a large number of partners in the fields of law enforcement, health, and child and social services, this project put together a community-wide action plan and network of support to find solutions to the gang violence problems in the Greater Edmonton Area.
This involved developing a comprehensive listing of risk and protective factors related to gang involvement. This perspective helps us better understand drug epidemics and how drug generations emerge. Martin [ 51 ] even suggests that subcultural and social movement studies can learn from each other and be employed in empirical research.
Calluori [ 52 ] suggests that youth subcultures are collective solutions to the contradictions and pressures youth experience due to their socioeconomic class and age. These subcultures provide strategies for surviving the degradations of everyday life in society. A different contextual perspective is offered by those subscribing to a Social Resource Theory SRT , which focuses on the resources embedded within a social network and has its origins in economic sociology [ 54 ].
Social environments, as manifested in friendships among dyads, can be represented by a social network. Using this approach, researchers have a much better understanding of the role of peer affiliations in substance use among adolescents [ 55 , 56 ], for whom schools provide natural social laboratories. Using the SRT approach, different ties can enable a person, who is called an ego, to reach connections or associates, that are called alters, different types of resource that an individual might need to meet his or her needs [ 54 ]. There are mutual expectations that are assumed within social relationships for this type of support and access to resources.
Such resources are collectively called "social capital". This resource has been found to aid those finding employment and increasing economic opportunities [ 57 ]. Three propositions have been formulated in SRT: 1 Resources accessed in social networks affect outcomes such as employment; 2 This subsequently affects social resources; and 3 The employment of weaker as opposed to stronger ties affect access to social resources. These three propositions focus efforts on better understanding access to resources embedded in social networks, and allow a better understanding of how resources embedded in social networks can help provide educational, employment, and social opportunities.
Furthermore, network resources, education, and initial positions are expected to affect attained statuses such as employment or earnings. In addition, SRT encompasses social capital, the use of social contacts and the resources in searching for jobs. Prior research has investigated the social capital of individuals in the labor market. In one study, better access to social capital was found to aid in the employment process [ 58 ]. Strong ties increased optimism about jobs, which in turn intensified the job search, leading to more and better jobs.
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Participants with better social capital among strong ties also had better employment outcomes. The Sprenger, et al. Boxman, De Graaf and Flap [ 59 ] found both education and social capital had direct effects on income, and that men had higher income and employment. Other studies grounded in SRT have found demographic groups vary in the types and number of ties in their personal social networks. Wegener [ 60 ] found this influences the effectiveness of social ties for obtaining employment.
We know that men tend to have weak ties whereas women have stronger ties in their networks. We also see an outcome that involves limiting access to new information, and an example of this involves African-Americans having less diverse networks than Caucasians [ 54 ]. One unfortunate consequence of these social networks is that women and minorities tend to receive fewer job leads than white men [ 61 ].
Increasing attention has been provided to these types of social networks in the field of addiction. A number of studies have examined the networks of those in substance use recovery, and have established their relevance as facilitators of treatment entry [ 62 , 63 ] and also serve as mediators of ongoing sobriety [ 64 - 67 ].
From adolescence to young adulthood, Hahm, et al. In another study, Weerman, et al. As another example, Mercken, et al. Thus, social network methodologies have been used to measure and explain the dynamic interplay among friendship and mentoring relationships and recovery-supporting attitude and behavior change. These types of studies can simultaneously identify the active possible social ingredients of recovery, as well as proposing changes to broaden the beneficiary population.
Social resources embedded in social networks affect the outcomes of employment and are affected by the demographics of an ego. Social resources are also affected by the use of weak and strong ties. SRT has been applied to employment attainment in the general population, but little is known about these associations in mutual-help settings. Additionally, there are few studies that specifically look at heroin users through an SRT lens.
Given the role of employment for recovery from heroin addiction, it is important to understand these relationships in recovery communities. People in recovery from substance use disorders, particularly those with heroin addiction, face many obstacles to maintaining a drug free lifestyle [ 71 ]. Many relapse within a few months of finishing substance use treatment [ 72 ]. This phenomenon may be due to the lack of community-based housing and employment support [ 73 ]. Many self-help organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous AA provide support for people in recovery.
However, these programs do not provide much needed safe and affordable housing or access to employment. For these needs, a variety of professionally-run and resident-run residential programs are available in the United States [ 74 ]. Although such recovery programs are important sources of housing and employment support, they do not work for everyone [ 75 , 76 ], and it is important to understand the reasons for these differential outcomes. Dropout from recovery homes often occurs when a resident has not been able to become integrated into the house community [ 77 ].
These theoretical dynamics involve social networks which evolve based on network members' characteristics. Recovery homes benefit those in recovery similar to AA involvement, as both provide new friendships and opportunities for advice and support. Relationships within the recovery homes would be important to investigate. Relevant relationships would be those that promote discussion of recovery-threatening topics such as negative feelings like stress, anxiety, and loneliness.
Such people, which could be called confidants, are also important as a source of interactive problem-solving that is less likely in step meetings. Some recovery houses, such as Oxford Houses, do provide comprehensive social environments for residents. Oxford Houses are the largest single network of recovery houses in the United States, with more than 10, individuals in some 2, houses at any given time [ 78 ]. As an example of this approach with heroin users, Callahan and Jason [ 9 ] studied five women who had been heroin users and followed their changes in social networks over a two year period of time after entering recovery homes called Oxford Houses.
This study found an increase in the number of alters of a two year period, while the number of heroin users in their networks decreased. The percent of the network of family members was also found to increase as the number of alters increased. When the researchers examined the social networks of two of these women, at baseline, one participant had few connections with members of her network.
However, by the end of the study, this person was more connected to other network members. For the second woman, at baseline, this person had been actively using herioin and had several sex partners, but two years later, this person was abstinent and more connected to family and friends in recovery. Therefore, the work of Callahan and Jason [ 9 ] is an example of Social Network Theory, as behaviors are determined in part by the aspects of their social relationships.
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This study suggests Oxford Houses influences network density and in a positive way, helps provides individuals access to supportive networks and also provides insights about the retention of family members that provide resources for people in recovery. As is evident in this review, social resources and differential opportunity can influence the use of illegal ways to generate income.
And because heroin users use illegal means for their primary source of income, it is critical to understand employment as a mediator to sustained abstinence [ 31 ]. If successful rehabilitation is to occur, opportunity theory points to employment as a necessary goal to achieve. Those who use heroin adopt a hazardous lifestyle revolving around drugs. It is important to embrace theories that integrate many of the most important features of heroin addiction in context, and subcultural theory of heroin use has considerable appeal in understanding a broader notion of recovery.
Finally, SNT also has considerable appeal in both graphically and mathematically demonstrating the importance of context of both initiation and continuation of heroin use.
These theories all bring in the notion of context, which has also been at the forefront of the field of Community Psychology. This discipline emerged at the Swampscott meeting, attended by about three dozen psychologists including John Glidewell, Barbara Dohrenwend and James Kelly [ 79 ]. In one of the key addresses at this meeting, Glidewell [ 80 ] commented that we needed to shift the attention of psychologist's individual's interactions within small groups, as well as small groups and social organizations.
It was within these types of inter-connections that Glidewell argues we have the potential to alter values and feelings that shape behavior and adaptation. Similar work had been occurring in sociology e. Approaches reviewed have involved context, whether it was within differential opportunity, subcultural or social resource theory, in an effort to better understand heroin use disorders.
The important point is that complex contextual factors and systems surround heroin use, and theories that incorporate these issues could provide enormous benefits for addressing those with heroin use disorders. Jason, Stevens, Ram, Miller, Beasley, and Gleason [ 11 ] found that the field of Community Psychology has also encountered significant challenges in testing and evaluating theories, and many of its theories are too broad and thus have difficulties in allowing for testable propositions. So, just as with the field of Community Psychology, there is a need for more discussion about contextually specific theories for those with substance use disorders, and in particular, those using heroin.
Vaillant [ 83 ] has noted that cultural and environmental factors may be key contributors to abstinence following treatment. The amount and type of support for not using drugs is critical to successful recovery.
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Individuals who take part in aftercare services are able to maintain abstinence for a longer period of time [ 84 , 85 ]. Unfortunately, many individuals who complete substance use treatment are released back into the community without the types of environmental supports needed to solidify their abstinence. From a theoretical position, they might not provide the context and support that are needed to change the social ecology and employment opportunities for many within the heroin subculture.
Moos and Vaillant [ 87 , 88 ] offer rationales for why integration into the social system should be important to recovery effectiveness, such as monitoring and rewarding alternatives to using, as well as advice and outlets for dealing with negative emotions and stress. Furthermore, as Valliant explicitly noted, many of these recovery-supportive processes are likely to be active in new, recovery-supportive friendship and mentoring relations, which of course is based on SRT theory. This explains our focus on processes whereby relationships form in the social environment, or support their formation in the personal networks, and especially how friend and mentor relationships affect recovery outcomes.
These theories fit well within community-based efforts to reduce addiction and heroin use. There is now a need to focus on the ways that social environments affect health outcomes, and how theory can help set the direction for this work [ 89 ]. This research could contribute to reducing health care costs by improving the effectiveness of the recovery systems in the United States by restructuring and improving community-based recovery settings [ 90 ].
Mutual help systems can facilitate access to supportive networks in order to make frends and to promote a new lifestyle and altruism [ 91 ]. From a theoretical point of view, what is needed is low cost, but effective, ways of replacing those social networks with ones that feature individuals who do not use drugs and alcohol, and who are employed in legal activities [ 92 ].
Inger-Lise Lien (Author of Pathways to Gang Involvement and Drug Distribution)
Community network-based solutions include recovery settings where individuals can seek support with others for their addictions [ 93 ]. There are a number of limitations in this article, and below we review several of them. First, Differential Opportunity may explain only a small fraction of the relapse potential even following treatment.
In additon, while it is true that unemployment keeps people within the heroin use ecology, in terms of generating illicit money through abusers selling street drugs and becoming housed in a subcultural environment, there are many more neurobiological and mental health reasons that may keep them from seeking and finding a better life.
For example, , Reward Deficiency Syndrome RDS provides in-depth neurogenetic information of a common neurogenetic rubric linked to a hypodopaminergia and subsequent heroin seeking behavior including a other drug and non-drug behaviors [ 94 - 96 ]. While our article covered heroin use, dependence, prevalence, abstinence, prevention, recovery, and relapse as physical and emotional problem; and more biological aspects were not reviewed, such as research by Blum, et al.
In addition, although we focused on employment issues, educational level [ 98 ] as well as religiosity [ 99 ] also have important implications for understanding this area. Also, many of the articles refer to psychoactive substances and are not specific to heroin. Finally, this article does not indicate the direction of the causality of the proposed relationships e.
This article reviewed three prominent theories that can be applied to those using heroin.