familial void in their lives, may face similar problems stemming from loyalty to their gang and
fear of retaliation if they are seen to betray it.87
B. Child Soldiers: International and Local
Impoverished urban neighborhoods are often compared with war zones, due to their
higher levels of violence than in other parts of the country.88 Even if the comparison is tenuous in
some respects, the relationship between young gang members in the United States and child
soldiers in the rest of the world is striking. Estimates show more than 700,000 youth gang
members as opposed to more than 300,000 child soldiers.89 It can be argued that fighting in a
standing army presents more of what we would commonly consider combat experience and that
no U.S. locale can approximate this. But while it is true that our urban violence is on a smaller
scale (between rival gangs and not rival governments), the comparison is nonetheless warranted
in terms of how these children view the conflicts they enter into and what effect this violence has
on their lives beyond the time of fighting.90
A growing number of researchers have considered the similarities between child soldiers
and children who join gangs and have suggested turning to the plentiful research on former child
soldiers to guide researchers aiming to fill gaps in current research on gang-involved youth.91
This is a significant comparison for this analysis because use of children for soldiers in armed
forces is internationally recognized as an egregious form of child labor.92 Both child soldiers and
juvenile gang members are drawn from economically-depressed areas that are rife with
violence.93 These circumstances make the economic and protective advantages of joining a “side”
in the local conflict (whether an army or a gang) attractive to poor, vulnerable children who may
have already witnessed harm done to loved ones and feel a strong need to protect relatives or
contribute financially to their welfare.94 Community and family bonds draw children into joining
both gangs and armed forces.95 Traumatic histories are commonly found in children who join
gangs and armed conflicts,96 and both groups may experience perpetrator-trauma as a result of
their conflict experiences after joining the group.97 It is generally easier for children to leave a
gang than for children to leave an army; while child soldiers may not be demobilized until a
formal peace treaty or military restructuring occurs, juvenile gang members are more free to
define the length of their involvement, 98 but child soldiers (who are often disarmed en masse at
87 Braunstein, supra note 40, at 78–79; Kerig et al., supra note 83, at 781; cf. Jones, supra note 12, at 494– 99 (discussing the
boundaries of consent and victimization for migrants who consented to being smuggled into the United States and those who then
became trafficked after giving such consent).
88 Chicago Homicides Outnumber U.S. Troop Killings in Afghanistan, HUFFINGTON POST (Aug. 16, 2012, 4:24 PM),
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/chicago-homicide-rate-wor_n_1602692.html; c.f. Whet Moser, Chicago: More Deadly
Than Kabul, Or Not?, CHI. MAG. (Aug. 16, 2012), http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/August-2012/Chicago-
89 Kerig et al., supra note 83, at 774.
90 Christopher Blattmann & Jeannie Annan, Consequences of Child Soldiering, 92 REV. ECON. & STAT., 882, 883 (2010); M.D. Krohn
et al., The Cascading Effects of Adolescent Gang Involvement Across the Life Course, 49 CRIMINOLOGY 991, 1016 (2011);
Braunstein, supra note 40, at 78–79.
91 See Kerig et al., supra note 83, at 785–86; see Braunstein, supra note 40, at 78.
92 Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, supra note 32, at art. 3; ILO Convention 182, supra note 37, at art. 3.
93 Kerig et al., supra note 83, at 775; see Kathryn Kizer, Behind the Guise of Gang Membership: Ending the Unjust Criminalization, 5
DEPAUL J. SOC. JUST. 333, 343–44 (2012); see Mike Tapia, U.S. Juvenile Arrests: Gang Membership, Social Class, and Labeling
Effects, 43 YOUTH & SOC’Y 1407, 1410–11, 1418–22 (2011) (describing socioeconomic status as a factor in gang participation).
94 Braunstein, supra note 40, at 78–79.
96 Kerig et al., supra note 83, at 779.
97 Id. at 778–79.
98 Id. at 785–87 (“[M]ost gang members report having walked away without ritual violence or ceremony . . . . [But] for [child
soldiers], reintegration into civilian life often begins with a political process, one that encompasses the entire community if not
nation.”) (citations omitted); James C. Howell, Menacing or Mimicking? Realities of Youth Gangs, 58 JUV. & FAM. CT. J. 39, 44