Violence in the “Balance”: A Structural Analysis of How Rivals, Allies, and Third-Parties Shape Inter-Gang Violence
This paper explores the role of local structural conditions that facilitate or hinder violence when enmity is present between parties. This is illustrated by examining violence among street gangs. Using structural balance theory, the current research investigates whether certain triadic structures in which two rival gangs i and j are related to a third gang with either an ally or rival relationship is linked to the level of violence between i and j. Using multiple regression quadratic assignment procedure (MRQAP), the data on inter-gang relations and violent incidents among the gangs in Long Beach, CA, are analyzed. Structural imbalance, which indicates the lack of clear coalition patterns and a dominance relation, increases violence between rival gangs. On the other hand, the effect of balanced structures on violence is more complex. Balanced structures are much less violent, however, a gang will initiate violence if by doing so it can expect to reinforce its dominant position.