While many gang members have different personalities and traits and come from a variety of broken homes, most seem to be looking for an identity of their own or a chance to belong to something. These reasons satisfy powerful needs to an individual, especially a teenager. These needs include, but are not limited to, self-preservation, protection, love, discipline, identity, camaraderie, power, money, popularity or a chance to stand out or to get respect.
After the gang forms, it creates its own subculture that develops social standing and mores. Sociologically speaking, the gang becomes its own society for its members, while those members lose the connection to normal society and their biological or legal families.
Their goal is to maintain the function of the gang and the individual's social standing within the gang. Members may naturally fall into comfortable roles within the group. Leaders develop from those members who are usually more violent than the others or those members that are more charismatic or who have the desire to lead. Members with proven track records as risk-takers will socially end up near the top of the hierarchy of the gang. Those members who are less motivated and lack the guts of the others will take on less important roles.
Mores—moral rules and customs of a social group—develop as the gang develops. Acceptable behavior for the gang such as drug selling, drug use, shootings, stabbings, sexual deviance and other behavior become the norm for the gang.
Gang members find it increasingly difficult to interact in mainstream society. They make excuses for their behavior and blame everyone else for their failure. The more disconnected they get from society, as outlaws, the closer their connection to the gang and its mores.
This helps keep the gang's control over its members stronger. The members become more disconnected from society, old friends and real family. The activities of the gang become their normal functions. Others are viewed as outsiders and, at times, enemies. There is a lack of empathy toward others.
The gang's limited social conscience causes the individual member to find it difficult to interact with others who aren't members of the same gang. The gang becomes a job and a social function at the same time.