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Importance of a Sense of Belonging in Adolescence

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 1645 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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For young people to navigate their own personal and individual lives, having a sense of ‘belonging’ is a crucial part of someone for enabling them to achieve this. Aspiration and experience contribute a useful structure, within changing times and diverse circumstances for allowing young people to handle their lives. Belonging is an essential part of individual lives as it contributes to seeing value within yourself because as humans, we desire connections with others to ensure we feel part of something bigger than just ourselves. The idea of ‘gangs’ being explored through the concept of ‘belonging’ allows us to identify and understand what makes certain peoples feel part of these groups. We gather a clear understanding by identifying the how young people find a sense of belonging, positives and negatives and how they evolved in a gang situation. There are also people who do not have a sense of belonging and it is important to explore how this can intensely impact on someone life to the extent of feeling like they do not have a family or support.

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Individuals having a sense of belonging contributes to content and a meaningful life. Being included in a group gives people the experience of being part of something that expands past the barrier of just ourselves, and leaves us feeling connected to humanity. “Belonging is like stepping up on a platform and feeling like you are fully supported” stated by Naomi Hattaway, which emphasises the importance of the idea of belonging within a young person’s life. It gives youth the building blocks and confidence to succeed, believe in themselves and achieve goals. It is a basic human need in order to feel linked with society and feel a great amount of support. “Being ‘independent’ was ranked relatively low as something that young people value, with only around 21 per cent identifying this as something they value (down from 32 per cent in 2009 and 27 per cent in 2010).” This information was collected from Mission Australia 2011, which can be further discussed as it is seen that young people do not value independence as opposed to when they are surrounded by family and friends as youth feel more support and sense of belonging under these circumstances. Gangs are also a strong example as the concept of ‘belonging’ is further developed and discussed. Young people who choose to choose a gang for a sense of belonging either come from circumstances that aren’t the norm, from a neighbourhood with a low socioeconomic area, not supportive family, might not be succeeding in school, or not feeling accepted. These unfortunate parts of some individual lives make it extremely hard for young people to feel as though they are accepted and can be part of society. When young people are thrown into rough environments, people who fall into a gang situation and think this is the best thing for them, as that is where they feel included within society and have a sense of belonging. Joining a gang for some gives these individuals a sense of family and a clear pathway for them to fall into because they feel a sense of belonging within these diverse circumstances.

Young people cultivate a sense of belonging through various stages and circumstances throughout their lives. There are many positives and negatives that come from youth being part of a gang environment. These specific groups that merge into gangs allows them to figure a sense of value and belonging in their own time. Gangs have strong examples of giving individuals a sense of belonging. This specific kind of grouping all work together giving every member a secure sense of belonging, providing the youth with role models as well as a structure and routine. “Young people are looking for boundaries, and these are explored in gangs and in their social interactions with each other and people outside the gang circle.” Stated by Caspar Walsh expressing that although the idea if a ‘gang’ is suggested that they are a bad grouping in society, for people to be part of these groups is simply to create a sense of belonging. They are able to help young people through difficult times in their lives, and give them fundamental codes in respect of themselves and society, to make them good people. The quote “Gangs can also provide a sense of status, recognition, alleviate boredom with excitement associated with crime, and provide protection.” Shows how young people being involved in gangs has a positive impact on them, and as stated, provides a status and sense of belonging making them feel part of the world. However, although there are many positives for gangs giving youth a sense of belonging, it is also important to outline the negatives that can be involved during youth being included in this kind of environment. Mongrel Mob, Black Power, and Nomad Gangs are the most prominent gangs in New Zealand at the moment. Although these gangs create a sense of belonging for the members of the groups they are highly involved in criminal activities including, selling drugs, serious violence and possessing weapons. These kind of acts within a group is creating a loose structure to life, and although there is a sense of belonging for people amongst the youth, bad habits form and they do not find themselves having a strong sense of belonging with the rest of society.

With belonging being so important it is interesting to see where gangs first came about, and how they evolved. Gangs are considered “A structured group of 5 or more, that maintains both an exclusive membership marked by common identifiers and formal rules that supersede the rules of the state.” The first gang to evolve in New Zealand was a group called the ‘Milk Bar Cowboys’ which first emerged in the 1950s, also known at bodgies. This gang was a group of people who did not fit into the norm of society, as they shocked and irritated the community with their antisocial and disrespectful behaviour like motorbiking through the city. This specific gang, started as teenagers with their own structure, attitude and style. Being in gangs for these certain youth individuals provided a sense of belonging and value to their lives. Many young people had troubled families with various problems involved which encouraged these youths to turn to a gang environment where they found themselves a ‘family’ like grouping. Understanding the evolution of gangs and how they came about is important within today’s society because it is shaping young people’s lives and navigating them through diverse times and circumstances. “The gangs continue to survive over time is evidence in itself, that groups provide positive functions to their memberships, which in the main they are social/psychological factors” expressed by Mike Carlie, Malcolm Klein. This statement shows that gangs are continuous all over the world, because they provide positive impacts on each member, allowing youth that does not have normal background support, they give a support system. A great term used amongst New Zealand gangs is the phrase ‘brotherhood’, which is an expression to the group that we are family, and we are the support of one another. It is helpful for those who came into these groups for a sense of belonging and the idea of ‘brotherhood’ is reassuring and family like for these youths.

Through the idea of gangs we can see how young people navigate their own personal lives, and creating a sense of belonging. We are able to gather an understanding about the importance of belonging through the idea of gangs and how it can impact an individual’s life positively and negatively. From simply a lack of emotional support, love and security can lead people to feeling like they do not belong. A sense of belonging maps how individuals deal with situations and sometimes humans need to find that within a specific grouping that best suits them.




●        White, R., Wyn, J. & Robards, B. (2017) Youth and Society (4th ed.) Belonging. “Being independent was ranked relatively low with as something that young people value, with only around 21 percent identifying this as something they value (down from 32 percent in 2009 and 27 percent in 2010).” P 179

●        Marianna Pogosyan PH.D. Posted Apr 11, 2017. On belonging. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201704/belonging

           “Belonging is like stepping up on a platform and feeling like you are fully supported”

●        Gilbert, J. (2013). Patched : The history of gangs in new zealand. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com. P 112

●        Caspar Walsh. 10 Nov, 2011. Gangs are good for society https://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2011/nov/10/gangs-good-society-youth-crime

●       Eggleston, p.8. Young people and Gangs in New Zealand. Reasons for Youth Gangs. https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/research-papers/document/00PLSocRP09021/young-people-and-gangs-in-new-zealand


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