n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - Mental health status and gang membership as attributes of child neglect and abuse amongst young persons at risk

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



The concept of "contextual causality" is explored from a youth perspective in terms of gangs and mental health disorders in general. While juvenile street gangs serve as an avenue for the youth from disadvantaged communities to find expression in anti-social activity, drugs, abuse and violence which manifests especially amongst children who do poorly in school, display disruptive behaviour, are in conflict with their peers, have abusive parents and attend schools that cannot control disruptive and violent behaviour. Street gangs of this nature are often serving as feeding sources to prison gangs. The reason for such behaviour is often organic in nature in the form of mental health disorders. The identification of persons suffering from mental health disorders and adequate mental health care are strategic concerns for crime reduction initiatives generally. Poor mental health is internationally more prevalent amongst young offenders who are more likely to be suffering from mental health disorders. This article reports on a comparative analysis of data collected from of a sample of offenders in a South African correctional centre. Of the 236 research participants who agreed to take part in the research, 102 (43,2%) were diagnosed with mental health disorders. A significant association between mental illness and the incidence of violence as well as between mental illness and gang involvement emerged from the results.

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