Following screening assessments of 8,000 young people at the point of arrest, researchers found that young women involved with gangs were more likely to display a range of risk factors and health issues including poor mental health, family conflict, homelessness and victimisation.
Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health said it is clear that girls with the most problems are being drawn in to gang culture.
He said: “The reasons girls join gangs are often quite different to boys of a similar age.
“Whereas low self-esteem in boys usually means they are less likely to join a gang, girls with low self-esteem are more likely to get sucked into the gang lifestyle because it offers them a sense of security and an ‘alternative family'.”
The report, A Need to Belong can be downloaded here.