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Antisocial Personalities May Find Social Niche in Gangs

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Most people who join gangs have an "extreme antisocial personality," according to a new study that challenges previous research suggesting gang membership is driven by fear, intimidation or peer pressure.

People with an antisocial personality are impulsive, lack self-discipline and self-control, and aren't concerned about other people's problems. Because of this, they may be excluded from groups at school or work.

In this study, British researchers gave personality tests to 152 adult male prisoners and asked them about impulsive behavior and their feelings of commitment to different social groups. Those with an antisocial personality felt little connection to peers who might be a good influence and instead preferred more antisocial peers with similar values and attitudes.

The most antisocial prisoners were involved in more crimes and were more likely to be in a gang.

The findings suggest that people join and remain in gangs because they make friends with other members and feel a strong connection to the group, the University of Leicester researchers said in a journal news release.

In a gang, impulsive and antisocial behavior is praised and respected, instead of being criticized as harmful and disruptive. This further increases the gang member's feeling of belonging.

The study results, recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, suggest that efforts to prevent people from joining gangs should focus on antisocial feelings, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about antisocial personality disorder.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Leicester, news release, November 2011

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