Gang Norms and Risky Sex Among Adolescents With a History of Detention

Kelly M. King, Dexter R. Voisin, Ralph J. DiClemente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior studies have examined whether or not belonging to a gang was associated with risky sexual behaviors. However, the literature has yet to explore whether it is not just gang membership but gang norms that are associated with risky sex, which was the primary aim of this study. Audio computer-assisted self-interviewing technology was used to collect data from a convenience sample of 136 adolescent detainees who reported gang involvement. Demographics, gang norms, and risky sexual behaviors occurring in the 2 months prior to being detained were assessed. Multiple logistic regression models controlling for demographics documented that adolescents who reported high-risk gang norms were significantly more likely to: have sex while high on drugs, have sex with a partner who was high on drugs, have group sex, and report condom breakage or leakage during a sexual encounter, compared with those with low-risk gang norms. Results suggest that the norms present within gangs infer added sexual risks. Future research should assess how risk norms differ across various gangs. Sexually transmitted infection prevention approaches should target youth who belong to gangs that promote risky norms given that conventions exist on a continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-551
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Social Service Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Detained youth
  • STI risk
  • drug use
  • gang norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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