People join gangs for various reasons but it has been found that adolescents who have been victims of abuse, have dysfunctional family systems, school drop-outs and those in foster care generally join gangs more than the normal teenager. Thus, the final project is geared towards bringing about behavior change for adolescents at risk of joining gangs and or has a tendency for violence. Before drawing up a concrete behavior change program, it is important to examine how this could be brought about by factors like motivation and cultural awareness.
Motivating people to change is not an easy feat, generally, if a person is set in his/her ways, then asking them to change something that they do not perceive to be evil or negative is a futile act. Central to the concept of motivation is that the goal offered to the individual must be meaningful to him/her, one that is personally desired and can be owned as a personal decision. This is where choice comes in, when a person is confronted with a choice; his/her reaction to it depends on their circumstances and present state of mind (Iyengar & Lepper, 1999).
In this context, choosing to change their behavior should come from their internal desire to change, to become better and to be removed from their present difficulties. For example, if the behavior that is targeted to be modified is expressions of anger, it makes sense to the person to change this if he/she can realize that his/her actions hurt other people and that it also causes people to avoid them and hence lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Gangs are often formed around cultural groups, that is one gang can be comprised of Latinos, others are blacks, and others Asians and or whites. Thus, a program for behavior change should also consider the different cultural underpinnings of the gang and its members, if the gang is made up of black Americans, then asking them to join a program geared towards changing them, might be construed as culturally motivated, they have to be changed because they are blacks.
There is much emotionality when it comes to culturally specific gangs and it cannot be denied that emotion may get in the way of participating in a program that is designed to change them (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) Motivation is also said to be affected by culture, one has to be able to correctly identify the cultural background of the gang or the participants of the project so as to provide a more culturally relevant and sensitive program.
Lastly, motivation can be defined as extrinsic and intrinsic, it has been generally accepted that intrinsic motivation is more positive, more important and influential than extrinsic motivation thus the behavior change program should appeal to the intrinsic motivation of the participants.
Intrinsic motivation is the feelings and behavior that drives the person to act in a certain way or to commit to a behavior change program. Internal means that it is something personal and valued by the person, it can be the desire for self-awareness, confidence and achievement, whereas extrinsic motivations are physical and tangible like prestige, money and awards (Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2000).
The behavior change program should be designed to spark the intrinsic motivation of the participants, thus conducting an orientation seminar will introduce the participant to the program and letting them experience how good it is to be able to know who they are, to know that they mattered and someone cared for them would facilitate rapport and trust between the researcher and the participant. If the concepts of choice, culture and motivation will be adequately examined and integrated into the planned program, then surely the project would be a success.
Iyengar, S. & Lepper, M. (1999). Rethinking the role of choice: A cultural perspective on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 349-366. Markus, H. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253. Sansone, C. & Harackiewicz, J. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for optimal motivation and performance. San Diego: Academic Press.