A Los Angeles researcher has developed a new multiple-choice test that claims to predict if a child will join a gang in the future, the Wall Street Journal reported on May 20.
Malcolm Klein, Ph.D., a retired University of Southern California professor and a social psychologist who has spent more than 40 years studying Los Angeles' street gangs, created the test for children ages 10 to 15. The test includes about 70 multiple choice questions that ask adolescents about issues such as past relationships, drug use and their attitudes toward violence.
City officials said they had relied on anecdotal information from local police and educators to create gang-prevention programs in the past. This year Los Angeles' policy makers said they plan to use the empirical evidence from test results to decide if the city's $24 million budget for gang prevention is being spent on the children who are most at risk.
Critics of the test said it may not identify enough children who are in danger of joining gangs. “This [test] cannot be the only solution,” said Urban Education Partnership's senior director Ellen Pais, whose organization hosts community events for children as alternatives to gang involvement.
Research suggests gangs are less prevalent than previously thought, said Klein, incorporating about 15 percent of the youth in so-called “gang-infested” areas and less in other areas. A majority of adolescents in gang-infested neighborhoods will never join a gang, said Klein.
More than 900 children who live in L.A. areas where gangs are active have already taken the test. About one-third of the test takers have been identified as being at risk for joining a gang and will be enrolled in a gang prevention program.