Leveraging the pushes and pulls of gang disengagement to improve gang intervention: findings from three multi-site studies and a review of relevant gang programs

Caterina G. Roman, Scott Decker, David C. Pyrooz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to situate knowledge on the pushes and pulls of disengagement from gangs within the inventory of gang intervention programs. Drawing on developmental and life course criminological theory and three major, multi-site studies on gang disengagement, we examined the self-reported pushes and pulls that led gang members to reduce their gang embeddedness and move toward disengagement more effectively. We found that (1) multiple rather than single factors for leaving gangs were most common, (2) push factors exceeded pull factors in prevalence and frequency, and (3) motivations for disengagement may be age-graded, and appear to increase in complexity with age. We complemented the multi-site findings by examining prominent programmatic efforts to reduce or prevent gang involvement that have the most explicit theory of change related to the pushes and pulls in gang disengagement: focused deterrence, hospital-based interventions, jobs programs, and relationship-based interventions that have street-outreach, therapeutic, family, and fatherhood areas of focus. Programs that address individuals disillusioned with their gang and simultaneously offer sustained opportunities to develop and engage in prosocial networks are most likely to enjoy success. The success of such interventions, however, may be dependent on developmental stages in the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-336
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Crime and Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017



  • desistance
  • Disengagement
  • gang intervention
  • motivations for gang exit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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