Wood, J., & Mallion, J. (2020). Good Lives Model and street gang membership: A review and application. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 52. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2020.101393
With attention rapidly growing on the Good Lives Model (GLM) as a rehabilitation framework for offending behavior, this paper is the first to review the literature surrounding the GLM and examine its theoretical application to street gang membership and intervention during adolescence. Each of the general, etiological and treatment assumptions of the GLM are reviewed and discussed in relation to the street gang literature. Using a twin focus, the GLM aims to both reduce risk and promote achievement of overarching primary goods by improving internal (e.g., skills and values) and external capacities (e.g., opportunities, resources and support); enabling the development of a prosocial, fulfilling and meaningful life. Street gang members are notoriously difficult to engage in intervention, with slow levels of trust towards therapists. With the use of approach goals, rather than the typically-used avoidance goals, this enables street gang members to perceive themselves as individuals with the ability to change, and allows them to recognize a future life without offending is both possible and appealing. By wrapping the GLM framework around current evidence-based interventions (e.g., Functional Family Therapy), this can increase motivation to engage in treatment and, ultimately, reduce need to associate with the street gang.
Frisby-Osman, S., & Wood, J. (2020). Rethinking how we view gang members: An examination into affective, behavioral, and mental health predictors of UK gang-involved youth. Youth Justice, Online. doi:10.1177/1473225419893779
Mental health difficulties, conduct problems, and emotional maladjustment predict a range of negative outcomes, and this may include gang involvement. However, few studies have examined how behavioral, mental health, socio-cognitive, and emotional factors all relate to adolescent gang involvement. This study examined 91 adolescents to compare non-gang and gang-involved youth on their conduct problems, emotional distress, guilt proneness, anxiety and depression, and use of moral disengagement and rumination. Analyses revealed that gang-involved youth had higher levels of anxiety, depression, moral disengagement, and rumination. Gang-involved youth also had higher levels of conduct disorder and exposure to violence, but they did not differ from non-gang youth on levels of emotional distress and guilt proneness. Discriminant function analysis further showed that conduct problems, moral disengagement, and rumination were the most important predictors of gang involvement. Discussion focuses on how intervention and prevention efforts to tackle gang involvement need to consider the mental health and behavioral needs of gang-involved youth. Further research is also needed to build an evidence-base that identifies the cause/effect relationship between mental health and gang involvement to inform best practice when tackling gang membership.
Stevens, E., & Wood, J. (2019). I Despise Myself for Thinking about Them: A Thematic Analysis of the Mental Health Implications and Employed Coping Mechanisms of Self-Reported Non Offending Minor Attracted Persons. The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. doi:10.1080/10538712.2019.1657539
‘Non-offending pedophiles’ or ‘minor-attracted persons’ are individuals who suppress an attraction to children. Previous analyses of this population’s mental illness employed overt self-report methods, limited by social desirability. Additionally, studies assessing the coping mechanisms employed to remain offense-free are underpowered; understanding of these would facilitate the rehabilitation of prior offenders. A thematic analysis of coping mechanisms and mental illness was conducted on 5,210 posts on the ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’ forum. Four themes emerged for coping mechanisms: Managing risk and attraction to children, Managing mood, Managing preferences prosocially and Friends, family and relationships, with 13 subthemes. Five themes emerged for mental illhealth, including: Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Self-hatred/Selfharm/ Suicide and Other. Self-hatred/Self-harm/Suicide accounted for almost a third of discussed mental ill-health. These results highlight the severity of mental ill-health amongst this population and the coping mechanisms employed to remain offense-free.
Wood, J. (2019). Confronting gang membership and youth violence: Intervention challenges and potential futures. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 29, 69-73. doi:10.1002/cbm.2113
Evaluation of approaches and psychological obstacles to tackling youth gang involvement.
Mallion, J., & Wood, J. (2018). Emotional processes and gang membership: A narrative review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 43, 56-63. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2018.10.001
With implementation of governmental strategies aimed at reducing gang involvement, academic interest in gang membership has rapidly increased. However, there is a dearth of knowledge relating to emotional processes of gang members (Wood & Alleyne, 2010). This review synthesizes existing literature surrounding possible risk factors for gang membership including, empathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), Psychopathy, Callous-Unemotional (CU) traits, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Emotional Intelligence (EI). Due to the limited evidence-base, additional literature surrounding violent offending and group relations are used to provide a comprehensive account of emotional processes of gang members. It is concluded that high levels of ASPD traits and low levels of empathy and EI are potential risk factors for gang membership. However, contradictory research findings, prevent conclusions regarding the influence of psychopathy, ODD and CU-traits on gang membership. Overall, this review provides support for utilizing emotion-focused strategies in gang intervention programs and recommends that future research focuses on assessing the developmental trajectory of emotional processes throughout the cycle of gang membership (joining, maintaining and exiting).
Osman, S., & Wood, J. (2018). Gang membership, Mental Illness, and Negative Emotionality: A Systematic Review of the Literature. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 17, 223-246. doi:10.1080/14999013.2018.1468366
Gang-related violence poses detrimental consequences worldwide. Gang members suffer a range of adverse experiences, often as victims who then transition to adolescence and early adulthood as offenders. Such experiences may negatively affect their mental health. Yet, the relationship between gang membership and mental illness is, to date, not well understood. This systematic review synthesized the literature on gang member’s mental health and emotions. A two-part search strategy of electronic and hand searches, dated from: January 1980 – January 2017, was conducted. A total of n = 306 peer papers were included in a preliminary scoping review, of which n = 23, met the inclusion criteria and study outcomes. Narrative synthesis revealed how gang members may be at increased risk of suffering from mental illnesses and negative emotions, such as anger and rumination. Yet, synthesis showed that understanding remains limited regarding gang members’ experience of self-conscious emotions and how such emotions might link to persistent offending patterns and violence. The results suggest gang members may benefit from clinically tailored interventions to support their mental and emotional health. Clinical and research implications are discussed to inform future empirical, intervention, and prevention work with gang members and individuals at risk of gang involvement.
Mallion, J., & Wood, J. (2018). Comparison of Emotional Dispositions Between Street Gang and Non-Gang Prisoners. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. doi:10.1177/0886260518789147
Effectively recognizing, identifying, and utilizing emotional stimuli is essential for successful social interactions, with deficits in these robustly identified as risk factors for offending. Psychological understanding of street gang membership is limited, particularly surrounding emotional dispositions distinguishing street gang from non-gang offenders. This study examined how street gang members compare with non-gang offenders on trait emotional intelligence (TEI), antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), callous–unemotional traits, anger rumination, and aggression. Recruited through volunteer sampling, participants included 73 (44 street gang and 29 non-gang) male offenders incarcerated at a U.K. Category C prison. Participants completed seven questionnaires assessing emotional dispositions, social desirability, and, consistent with the Eurogang definition, street gang membership. To compare participants’ demographics and identify the predictors of street gang membership, chi-square and discriminant function analyses were conducted. With a significant discriminant function, ? = .80, ?2(6) = 14.96, p = .021, high levels of ASPD, anger rumination, and aggression and low levels of TEI predict street gang membership. Compared with non-gang prisoners, street gang prisoners did not differ on callous–unemotional traits, age, or ethnicity. Results suggest that, compared with non-gang prisoners, street gang members were more likely to possess dysfunctional emotional dispositions. Findings from this research have important implications in terms of developing interventions for street gang membership. Specifically, this research supports the need for gang-specific early intervention and prevention programs, with emotion-focused components. Ideas for future research are discussed, including the identification of further sociocognitive, personality, and emotional traits distinguishing street gang from non-gang offenders.
Wood, J., Kallis, C., & Coid, J. (2017). Differentiating gang members, gang affiliates and violent men on their psychiatric morbidity and traumatic experiences. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 80, 221-235. doi:10.1080/00332747.2016.1256144
Objective: Little is known about the differences between gang members and gang affiliates—or those individuals who associate with gangs but are not gang members. Even less is known about how these groups compare with other violent populations. This study examined how gang members, gang affiliates, and violent men compare on mental health symptoms and traumatic experiences.
Method: Data included a sample of 1,539 adult males, aged 19 to 34 years, taken from an earlier survey conducted in the United Kingdom. Participants provided informed consent before completing questionnaires and were paid £5 for participation. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to compare participants’ symptoms of psychiatric morbidity and traumatic event exposure.
Results: Findings showed that, compared to violent men and gang affiliates, gang members had experienced more severe violence, sexual assaults, and suffered more serious/life-threatening injuries. Compared to violent men, gang members and gang affiliates had made more suicide attempts; had self-harmed more frequently; and had experienced more domestic violence, violence at work, homelessness, stalking, and bankruptcy. Findings further showed a decreasing gradient from gang members to gang affiliates to violent men in symptom levels of anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, pathological gambling, stalking others, and drug and/or alcohol dependence. Depression symptoms were similar across groups.
Conclusions: The identified relationship between gang membership, affiliation, and adverse mental health indicates that mental health in gang membership deserves more research attention. Findings also indicate that criminal justice strategies need to consider gang members’ mental health more fully, if gang membership is to be appropriately addressed and reduced.
Spruin, E., Wood, J., Gannon, T., & Tyler, N. (2017). Sexual offender’s experiences of polygraph testing: a thematic study in three probation trusts. Journal of Sexual Aggression. doi:10.1080/13552600.2017.1378025
Post-conviction polygraph testing of sexual offenders is controversial and the use of the polygraph as a means of supporting supervision of sexual offenders has only recently been explored. This study examined qualitatively, offender managers’ and sexual offenders’ views on the mandatory use of the polygraph in community-based supervision. Fifteen polygraphed offenders and their ten offender managers (polygraph group), and ten non-polygraphed offenders and their ten offender managers (comparison group) were asked about their experiences and perceptions of mandatory polygraph use. Using thematic analysis, results provided four main themes: (1) truth detection, (2) perceptions of behavior change, (3) perceptions of polygraph as part of supervision and, (4) national implementation of polygraph testing. Results suggest several benefits to mandatory polygraph testing as a support for supervision, including: offenders making more high-risk disclosur
Wood, J., & Dennard, S. (2017). Gang membership: links to violence exposure, paranoia, PTSD, anxiety and forced control of behavior in prison. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 80, 30-41. doi:10.1080/00332747.2016.1199185
Objective: Gang membership inherently links to violence, and violent experiences strongly relate to PTSD, anxiety, and paranoia. Yet to date, gang members’ mental health has received little attention, and their paranoia has not been examined. This study, using established measures, assessed street gang and non-gang prisoners’ levels of: violence exposure, symptoms of PTSD, paranoia, and anxiety, forced behavioral control, and segregation in prison. Method: Participants were 65 (32 gang & 33 non-gang) prisoners, recruited using opportunity sampling. Participants provided informed consent, and were interviewed individually. Interviews were anonymized to maintain confidentiality. Chi Square and discriminant function analyses were used to compare participants’ demographics, segregation levels, mental health symptoms, and identify predictors of street gang membership. Results: As compared to non-gang prisoners, street gang prisoners have higher levels of exposure to violence, symptoms of paranoia, PTSD, anxiety, and forced control of their behavior in prison. Street gang prisoners were not more likely to be segregated, but they were more likely to belong to ethnic minorities. Street gang prisoners were only found to be younger than non-gang prisoners, when other variables were controlled for. Conclusions: Mental health deserves more attention in gang research. The implications of findings are that gang membership may undermine members’ mental health, and/or that individuals with existing mental health problems, may be those attracted to gang membership. Moreover, justice responses, via policies and intervention strategies, need to identify and address the mental health needs in gang member prisoners, if successful rehabilitation of gang members is to be achieved.
Alemohammad, M., Wood, J., Tapp, J., Moore, E., & Skelly, A. (2016). Support for the predictive validity of the Multifactor Offender Readiness Model (MORM): forensic patients’ readiness and engagement with therapeutic groups. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 27, 421-442. doi:10.1002/cbm.2008
Background Treatment non-engagement in forensic settings has ethical and economic implications. The Multifactor Offender Readiness Model (MORM) proposes a framework for assessing treatment readiness across person, programme and contexts.
Research question: Are the internal factors of the MORM associated with whether forensic patients engage, complete, refuse or drop out of groupwork interventions?
Method: In a retrospective design, associations between internal factors of the MORM, measured as part of assessment for group participation, and the outcomes of treatment refusal, treatment dropout and treatment completion were investigated.
Results: 118 male high security hospital patients consecutively referred for group treatment agreed to participate. Internal factors of the MORM associated with treatment refusals included: psychopathic cognition, negative self-evaluation/affect and effective goal seeking strategies. Those associated with dropouts included emotional dysregulation, low competencies to engage and low levels of general distress. MORM factors associated with completion included: low motivation, ineffective goal seeking strategies, absence of psychopathic cognition, high levels of general distress and competency to engage.
Conclusions: Internal factors of the MORM could be useful contributors to decisions about treatment readiness for hospitalised male offender-patients. Up to one in three programmes offered were refused, so clinical use of the MORM to aid referral decisions could optimise the most constructive use of resources for every individual.
Beresford, H., & Wood, J. (2015). Patients or Perpetrators? The Effects of Trauma Exposure on Gang Members’ Mental Health: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Criminological Research, Practice and Policy, 2, 148 -159. doi:10.1108/JCRPP-05-2015-0015
Given the portrayal of gang members as ‘super predators’, it is not surprising that much of the media and scholarly attention, to date, has focused on gang members as perpetrators of violence with little attention paid to their role as victims and their psychological wellbeing (Bennett et al., 1996). In this review we evaluate and synthesize theory and research relating to the relationship between gang membership and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The scarcity of research on this topic leads us to draw from research other than gang research to theorize links to build a clearer picture of the psychological consequences of belonging to a gang. We conclude that gang members' involvement in violence (as victims and perpetrators) is likely to have a negative impact on their behavioral, social and psychological functioning. We suggest future directions should be aimed towards developing and honing a robust program of research capable of producing evidence-based assessment and intervention strategies for tackling gang membership.
Dickens, T., & Wood, J. (2015). Severe child physical abuse: A psychological research agenda. Journal of Investigating Child Death, 1, 13-31. Retrieved from http://clok.uclan.ac.uk/11679/1/Journal%20of%20Investigating%20Child%20deaths.pdf#page=20
Severe child physical abuse is considered more prevalent than statistics indicate,
at least 1-2 children are documented to die at the hands of a parent/carer each
week in the UK. Records indicate that approximately 60% of these offenders are
male (Sidebotham, Brandon, Bailey & Belderson, 2011; Sinal et al, 2000).
Children living with unrelated males are more than 50 times more likely to die
than those who reside with both biological parents (Missouri, Schnitzer &
Ewigman, 2005). A paucity of research exists to understand the psychological
pathways of these male offenders. This article suggests a psychological agenda to
examine the pathways of these perpetrators. Discussion focuses on the value of
examining specifically the belief systems (cognitive distortions); personality traits;
impulsivity; self-esteem; empathy and attachment styles of this offender group.
Alleyne, E., Wood, J., Mozova, K., & James, M. (2014). Psychological and behavioral characteristics that distinguish street gang members in custody. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 21, 266-285. doi:10.1111/lcrp.12072
Purpose. Using social dominance theory, the primary aim of this study was to examine the attitudes and beliefs that reinforce status hierarchies and facilitate aggressive behavior within and between gangs. The aim was also to determine whether these socio-cognitive processes distinguished gang-involved youth from non-gang offenders in a custodial setting.
Methods. Gang-involved youth and non-gang offenders were recruited from a Young Offender Institution (YOI) located in the United Kingdom. Questionnaires assessing psychological (i.e., moral disengagement strategies, anti-authority attitudes, hypermasculinity, and social dominance orientation) and behavioral (i.e., group crime) characteristics were administered individually. We hypothesized that gang-involved youth would be affiliated with groups who engaged in more criminal activity than non-gang offenders, and that they would report higher levels of endorsements than non-gang youth across all of the psychological measures.
Results. We found that gang-involved youth were affiliated with groups who engage in more crimes than non-gang offenders. We also found that social dominance orientation was an important factor related to gang involvement along with measures assessing group-based hierarchies such as hypermasculinity, anti-authority attitudes, and the moral disengagement strategies displacement of responsibility, dehumanization, and euphemistic labelling.
Conclusions. These findings fit within a social dominance theoretical framework as they highlight key psychological factors that feed into perceived status-driven hierarchies that distinguish gang members from other types of offenders. These factors could be key to developments in treatment provision within custodial settings.
Wood, J., & Giles, H. (2014). Special Issue: Gangs: Group and intergroup dimensions. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 17, 701-832.
Wood, J. (2014). Understanding gang membership: The significance of group processes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17, 710-729. doi:10.1177/1368430214550344
Gang researchers have robustly established that gangs facilitate increased delinquency in members – even those who were prolifically delinquent before joining a gang (Klein, Weerman & Thornberry, 2006). This suggests that there is something about gang membership, specifically, that influences individuals in a pro-criminal direction. However, so far it is not clear what this influence is. This paper, taking a social psychological perspective on gang membership considers the potential influence that group processes exert on gang members to conform to group norms, to become cohesive and to strive to acquire group goals - such as status. It further speculates that adherence to group norms may cultivate gang members’ social cognitions such as moral disengagement, offense supportive cognitions and rumination. Conclusions note how group processes deserve closer research attention due to their potential for informing more accurate gang interventions to deter potential members and to reduce existing gang membership.
Wood, J., & Giles, H. (2014). Group and intergroup parameters of gang activities: An introduction and research agenda. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 17, 704-709. doi:doi: 10.1177/1368430214548620
In introducing this Special Issue on gangs, we overview the thrust of its papers, demonstrating how they
assist in plugging research gaps from the dearth of psychological attention to gangs. The papers therein
raise important theoretical considerations of group process effects, social identity, and communication
influences in gangs. Also included are empirical examinations of how attitudes to formal organized
crime groups may nurture progang views, how social networks bridge gang divides, the dehumanization
and social dominance association with gang membership, and how membership longevity associates
with gang members’ attitudes to their group. We conclude with theoretical prospects and empirical
vistas for future work. For instance, vitality theory may help explain members’ immersion in gangs,
discursive strategies could explain how youth are enticed into gangs, and examinations of community
and law enforcement attitudes to gangs may provide insight into how oppositional attitudes are
fostered on both sides of the gang divide.
Wood, J., Alleyne, E., Mozova, K., & James, M. (2014). Predicting involvement in prison gang activity: Street gang membership, social and psychological factors. Law and Human Behavior, 38, 203-211. doi:10.1037/lhb0000053
The aim of this study was to examine whether street gang membership, psychological factors, and social factors such as pre-prison experiences could predict young offenders’ involvement in prison gang activity. Data were collected via individual interviews with 188 young offenders held in a Young Offenders Institution in the United Kingdom. Results showed that psychological factors such as the value individuals attached to social status, a social dominance orientation, and anti authority attitudes were important in predicting young offenders’ involvement in prison gang activity. Further important predictors included pre-imprisonment events such as levels of threat, levels of individual delinquency, and levels of involvement in group crime. Longer current sentences also predicted involvement in prison gang activity. However, street gang membership was not an important predictor of involvement in prison gang activity. These findings have implications for identifying prisoners involved in prison gang activity, and for considering the role of psychological factors and group processes in gang research.
Gannon, T., Wood, J., Pina, A., Tyler, N., Barnoux, M., & Vasquez, E. (2014). An Evaluation of Mandatory Polygraph Testing for Sexual Offenders in the United Kingdom. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 26, 178-203. doi:10.1177/1079063213486836
Objective: This research examined whether a government-initiated pilot project of mandatory polygraph testing would increase the disclosures made by community-supervised sexual offenders in the UK. Method: The Offender Managers of 332 pilot polygraph sexual offenders and 303 sexual offenders who were receiving usual community supervision were telephoned quarterly, over a 21 month period, to collect information about numbers of clinically relevant disclosures, the seriousness of disclosures made, and actions taken as a result of disclosures. Perceptions of polygraph usefulness were also collected. Results: Offender Managers in the pilot polygraph group—compared to comparison Offender Managers—reported (1) a higher proportion of offenders making at least one disclosure (i.e., 76.5% versus 51.2% respectively), and (2) that their offenders made more total disclosures overall (Ms = 2.60 versus 1.25 respectively). The majority of disclosures made by sexual offenders in the polygraph group were associated with the polygraph session itself. Polygraph Offender Managers reported being more likely to take an action that involved increasing supervision, informing a third party, informing MAPPA, changing supervision focus, or issuing a warning to the offender. However, the relative seriousness of disclosures did not appear to differ across groups. In terms of polygraph test results, one third of offenders (most notably those who were higher in risk) failed their first test with ‘Deception Indicated’. This outcome—received on a first test—was most likely to elicit clinically relevant disclosures. Offender Managers described the polygraph as aiding supervision strategies. Conclusions: This research and its associated caveats are discussed.
Alleyne, E., Gannon, T., Ó Ciardha, C., & Wood, J. (2014). Community males show multiple-perpetrator rape proclivity: Development and Preliminary Validation of an interest scale. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 26, 82-104. doi:10.1177/1079063213480819
The literature on Multiple Perpetrator Rape (MPR) is scant; however, a significant proportion of sexual offending involves multiple perpetrators. In addition to the need for research with apprehended offenders of MPR, there is also a need to conduct research with members of the general public. Recent advances in the forensic literature have led to the development of self-report proclivity scales. These scales have enabled researchers to conduct evaluative studies sampling from members of the general public who may be perpetrators of sexual offenses and have remained undetected, or at highest risk of engaging in sexual offending. The current study describes the development and preliminary validation of the Multiple-Perpetrator Rape Interest Scale (M-PRIS), a vignette-based measure assessing community males' sexual arousal to MPR, behavioral propensity toward MPR and enjoyment of MPR. The findings show that the M-PRIS is a reliable measure of community males' sexual interest in MPR with high internal reliability and temporal stability. In a sample of university males we found that a large proportion (66%) did not emphatically reject an interest in MPR. We also found that rape-supportive cognitive distortions, antisocial attitudes, and high-risk sexual fantasies were predictors of sexual interest in MPR. We discuss these findings and the implications for further research employing proclivity measures referencing theory development and clinical practice.
Wood, J., James, M., & Ó Ciardha, C. (2014). ’I know how they must feel’: Empathy and judging defendants. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context, 6, 37-43. doi:10.5093/ejpalc2014a5
The current study investigated the effects of state and trait empathy in legal judgments and tested the relationship between trait and state emotion in one hundred and fifty eight students aged 18–59. Assessments were taken of participants’ trait empathy and then state empathy was induced in half the sample. Following this all participants read a trial transcript and made judgments regarding: the verdict decision; the defendant's responsibility for the offense; what would be an appropriate punishment; the likelihood that the offender would offend in the future; and whether the defendant felt remorse for committing the offense. Findings showed that both trait and state empathy predicted attributions of offender remorse. State empathy also predicted judgments of offender responsibility and agreement with verdict decisions in a lenient direction. Findings also showed that state and trait empathy did not interact. The results indicate that trait and state empathy work independently to influence legal judgments and that inducing empathy in decision-makers can impact on trial outcomes above and beyond the facts of the case.