The youth gang issue, as of yet, has not been addressed in its totality in gang policy. Rather, political actors have focused their attention on particular problem topics within the gang debate. This study attempts to document the interplay between problem definition, issue redefinition and the agenda-setting process. It shows how the attention given to the problem topics of gang violence and gang proliferation has influenced the construction of gang policy since the early 1980s. The origins of modern conceptions of gangs are discussed along with an overview of the social disorganization, subculture and structural theories. Detailed analyses ofthe political process and the processes of problem definition and agenda-setting are also provided to supplement information about gang research. By performing a content analysis on two legislative hearings held in 1983 and 1994, this study highlights the meanings, ideas and perspectives that have directed the formulation of gang policy. Whereas the 1983 hearing emphasized the criminality of gangs and suppressive policies, participants in the 1994 hearing redefined the issue as a social-economic problem and proposed an amalgamation of prevention, intervention and suppressive strategies to combat gang proliferation. To explain how the political context of the gang issue changed, opening a window for issue redefinition and alternative specification, I offer an alternate model, from the constructionist and objectivist approaches, called the competitive perception model. Finally, I conclude with an analysis of the competitive perception model and suggestions for future research on the relationship between issue redefinition and agenda status .


Moskowitz, Eric


Urban Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 2000 Tonda V. Lee