chapter  3
19 Pages

Researching social problems

ByAnne Foley

This chapter discusses 'gangs' and 'gang culture' as a social problem. The gang as commonly known is an American construct, so that the first influential definition of it emanated from research conducted in Chicago by sociologist Frederic Thrasher. Thrasher worked in the Sociology Department at Chicago University alongside distinguished scholars such as Robert Park and Ernest Burgess. Malcolm Klein's definition grew out of an evaluation of a gang project in Los Angeles. Scholars like Malcolm Klein and Walter Miller were at the forefront of the administrative drive to tackle gang-related offending and their independently published research was equally as influential as Thrasher's; however, the lens through which these scholars viewed the 'playgroups' of Thrasher's study was different. John Pitts's London-based research on gangs has identified violent youth gangs and Hallsworth and Young's study on delinquent formations is at pains to outline the disjuncture between peer groups, street gangs and organised crime groups that make up the crime network.