A signaling scale was constructed using a mixed graded response model and national longitudinal data to explore the thesis

The intricacies of youth selection into street gangs continue to evade full comprehension within current gang theories and research, sparking ongoing inquiries into the process of gang entry and its implications for criminology. This study introduces an innovative analysis proposing a signaling theory approach to understanding gang selection.

Methodology: Employing a mixed graded response model with national longitudinal data, a signaling scale was developed to explore the hypothesis that (1) prospective gang members employ challenging-to-fake quality signals to join gangs, with gangs interpreting and selectively recruiting higher-quality prospects, and (2) this signaling-based selection process shapes the relationship between gang membership and subsequent criminal behavior.

Findings: Individuals scoring higher on the signaling scale exhibited a heightened likelihood of prospective gang membership and displayed nonlinear increases in criminal behavior upon joining gangs, independently of other explanatory factors.

Conclusions: By integrating signaling theory into the study of gang selection and criminal behavior, this research highlights the potential of signaling theory to enrich understanding within gang studies and criminology more broadly.