Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Ruth Chu-Lien Chao

Second Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Third Advisor

Patton Garriott

Fourth Advisor

Shimelis Assefa


Counseling, Gang desistance, Gang member interviews, Gangs, Grounded theory, Youth


Very little research exists regarding the psychological impacts of gang membership and the mental health needs of gang members. Of the few studies that have been conducted, gang members were found to have increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (1.77 odds), current substance abuse (2.58 odds), oppositional defiant disorder, (1.24 odds) and conduct disorder (4.05 odds) (Harris, Elkins, Butler, Shelton, Robles, Kwok, Simpson, Young, Mayhew, Brown, & Sargent, 2013). Violent ruminative thinking, violent victimization and fear of further victimization were also significantly higher in gang members and believed to account for high levels of psychosis and anxiety disorder in gang members (Coid, Ullrich, Keers, Bebbington, DeStavola, Kallis, Yang, Reiss, Jenkins, & Donnelly, 2013). A gap remains in the gang literature for the role of psychology generally, as well as research focusing on the psychological implications of gang membership, and the mental health needs of former gang members. This study will address these gaps and add to the current gang desistance literature by focusing on the psychological process involved with gang desistance using a qualitative approach. The primary purpose of this grounded theory study is to understand the psychological process an individual experiences when leaving a gang.

11 youth associated with the gang prevention program GRASP, and who identified as former gang members, or in the process of leaving the gang, were interviewed. The study aimed to create a model representing the psychological process a former gang member experiences after deciding to leave the gang and end their gang ties, as well as to better understand the specific mental health impacts for this population. In the resulting model, Negative Impacts on Mental Health falls under the Core Category: Living with Continuous Internal Struggles and Emotional Discord. Youth described various negative impacts on their mental health, including experiencing stress and anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma symptoms, and the impact of grief and loss.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Alana C. Liskov


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

143 p.


Counseling psychology