A Comparison Study of Rural and Urban Gangs In America

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ron P. Edwards

Advisor Department



The purpose of the study was to assess specific areas of difference between four subject populations. The populations included youth that were both gang and non-gang-affiliated and living in either urban or rural settings. The informants were 52 men and women between the ages of 11 and 31. The population included both men ( n = 28) and women (n = 24), Black (n = 27) and White (n = 25), gang/organization members (n = 27) and nonmembers ( n = 25), residing in urban (n = 24) and rural ( n = 28) environments. All data collected were interpreted as no formal instruments were utilized. Furthermore, as the researcher was in actuality the instrument, to achieve the greatest validity and consistency in data collection, the researcher collected all data directly from gang members. Though many of the differences obtained across the four4 groups were expected, important and unexpected differences did emerge. The findings suggested by this study reflect that urban gang-affiliated youth come from more dysfunctional homes, we more violent, and have far less interest and hope for educational success. Specifically, urban gang members showed an absence of remorse, and empathic response toward the infliction of injury, or death to another person. These individuals possessed personality characteristics and behavioral attitudes closely aligned with those of the violent psychopath. Another prevalent finding was the lack of familial response and involvement. Based on the information obtained in this study, coupled with recent events and public demands for intervention, more aggressive research needs to be done in this area in order to benefit those practitioners who must deal with these individuals on a regular basis.