Living with indirect exposure to street gang youth violence in a 6th form college community

  • Leoni Nye Mitchell

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In London, the rate of street gang youth violence has increased. This violence has been strongly linked to knife crime and black males between the ages of 13 and 18 years old, commonly referred to as black male adolescents. Incidents of violence are no longer restricted to the night or to gang members only. Street gang youth violence is occurring in broad daylight on busy streets. This has led to non-gang affiliated individuals being exposed to this violence, directly and indirectly. Direct exposure to street gang youth violence includes witnessing the violence or being a direct victim. Indirect exposure refers to observing an increased police presence, taped-off areas, rows of flowers where an incident occurred, watching or listening to media reports on street gang youth violence, and discussing gangs or gang violence with peers, family members or professionals.
My understanding and experience of street gang youth violence has evolved over time. This growth has been influenced by how much access to information I had on this topic and an increased independence as I grew up which exposed me to this violence in various ways. Indirect exposure to street gang youth violence enabled me to develop meaning of my experiences and encouraged me to understand others’ experiences.
Frequent exposure to the negative stereotypes of black males prompted me to explore my understanding of my world and my position within it as a member of the black community, through the lens of others. I learnt my experiences could be understood better by myself and others, if I was willing to share my narrative. This understanding and my experiences led to the research topic of my doctoral thesis and the chosen research methodologies. I have used qualitative research methodologies which complement my research position of constructivism and phenomenology. It is hoped that the research methodologies have enabled the participants’ experiences to be constructed, shared and understood.
Currently, a large proportion of research has explored the impact of direct exposure to gang violence, gang members were the participants. There were studies which explored the impact of gang violence alongside other types of violence on non-gang affiliated individuals, such as domestic violence. The studies concluded there was a negative impact on individuals exposed to violence. However, no study reported on the impact of each form of violence which made it difficult to identify the impact of gang violence solely.
Similar to the U.K., gang violence in the U.S.A has been associated with black males; they are more likely to be a suspect as well as a victim of this violence. At the time this research took place five studies explored the impact of exposure to street gang youth violence on non-gang affiliated individuals (Kelly & Anderson, 2012; Kelly, 2015; Kelly et al., 2009; Kelly et al., 2011; Kelly et al., 2012) and one literature review was conducted on this topic (Kelly, 2010). These studies explored the impact of exposure to gang violence on African American youth, aged 8 to 18 years old. Study 1 of the doctoral thesis loosely replicated Kelly’s studies and explored the impact of indirect exposure to street gang youth violence on eight black male adolescents who attended the same college. Similar to Kelly’s studies, the current research also explored professionals who were a part of the adolescents’ support network. This current research is the first to explore the impact of street gang youth violence in London on non-gang affiliated adolescents and the understanding of this violence on the professionals who safeguard them.
There is a lack of literature exploring how professionals understand gang violence and how they manage exposure to gang violence to safeguard their students and colleagues. Study 2 of the doctoral thesis facilitated a focus group at the same college the participants of Study 1 attended. This is the first study to explore professionals’ understanding of street gang youth violence in London, where all participants of both studies attended the same educational establishment. This approach also developed an understanding of the impact of indirect exposure to street gang youth violence on an entire college community
Date of AwardJan 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAdrian Paul Charles Needs (Supervisor) & Dominic Pearson (Supervisor)

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