Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Mullins, Christopher

Second Advisor

Bubolz, Bryan


Despite the rich history of gang research in the United States, Asian gangs remain arelatively understudied group. While early investigations have teased out factors associated withentry and exit among these individuals, the vast majority of these accounts focused specificallyon Chinese and Vietnamese gang members in California and New York. Consequently, it isunclear whether these findings hold true for Asian gang members residing in other states and ofdifferent ethnic background, such as the Hmong (a highland tribal people from the mountains ofLaos). In an effort to address this empirical gap, this study relied on life-history interviews andethnographic observations with 34 current and former Hmong gang members from California,Minnesota, and Wisconsin to uncover the motivations and methods associated with entry,persistence, and exit. Overall, findings mirrored much of what has been documented amongother racial and ethnic gangs; that is, participants expressed similar reasons for joining, staying,and leaving. However, findings also indicated that Hmong gang members demonstrate a greaterand more genuine level of bonding—an observation that has also been noted among Vietnamesegang members. Moreover, there was evidence of geographic variations associated with joiningand staying between California and Wisconsin participants. In an effort to theoreticallycontextualize participants’ experiences (i.e. entry, persistence, and exit), this study utilized asymbolic interactionist framework—social structures, meaning-making, and identity—given itsemergence through the modified grounded theory approach to data collection and analysis. As aresult of these efforts, several theoretical and policy implications emerged and were discussed.




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