Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Field Observation

Inductiveand Deductive Approaches to Field Observation



May8, 2015


Thepurpose of this study is to provide a description of risk factorscontributing to gang violence in ‘Bloods’street gang, using two studies that are based on both inductive anddeductive observations. The paper aims at giving guidance as to whyyoung people engage in gangs’ violent activities. This paper drawson my observations and experiences during the study. These twostudies represent the contribution of inductive and deductiveobservations in observing gang violence.

TheBloods is gang group that is found in various places and cities inLos Angeles. The group was founded in Los Angeles and most of itsmembers are African American, and few are from different racialbackground. Street gangs are a problem in many cities therefore, itis very important for us to study the factors that contribute to gangviolence for us to come up with prevention and interventionstrategies for this problem. This study identifies these gang’soperations through inductive and deductive research by use ofqualitative methods. Inductive research involves generating a newtheory or relationship from data while deductive research involvestesting an existing theory. I conducted two field studies through nonparticipant observation to collect information from this gang. Thefindings from both field studies support the notion that substanceuse, physical aggressiveness, violent neighborhoods, and poorneighborhoods influences gang violence. The first study involvesinductive approach while the second approach involves deductiveapproach.


Thespecific aim of this study is to give information that relates toquestions like what is the motivation behind gang violence? Does apoor neighborhood influence gang violence? Is the use of violence byan individual influenced by their physical aggression? Does substanceuse act as a risk factor in gang violence? Does a violentneighborhood influence gang violence? Do territorial disputes amongthe gangs contribute to violence?


Iused purposive sampling where only the productive participants withspecific characteristics, which were of interest to me. The sampledid not represent the population but because my study was based onqualitative method to research, this was not a weakness but a choice.I selected subjects based on the homogenous characteristics theypossessed. This sampling method makes it easy to make generalizationsfrom the participants. On the other hand, it is very susceptible toresearcher bias. Also, I used non participant observation, whichinvolves observation of subjects without active participation. Thismethod of collecting data offers a researcher an easier environmentto record observations although it is not possible to get as muchdata as in participant observation (Gibbs, 2008).


On6thof May, at 18:15, I conducted a field study in the street corners ofCompton, Los Angeles where fourteen Blood gangs exist in order tounderstand the gangs and their activities. I visited twoneighborhoods occupied by the Bloods and conducted a non participantobservation. Through twenty five minutes of observation, I identifiedseveral factors that lead to gang violence among these gangs. First,most of the people in these neighborhoods are black and thanks to thewarm weather in Los Angeles that enabled me to do my observationswithout any interferences. There was no smog that is usuallyexperienced during summer hot days or Santa Ana winds, which couldhave been an irritant during this study. It is in the evening, andfrom a distance, I can view some large groups of young men wearingred clothing, drinking beer, and exchanging some commodities that Ihave no knowledge what they are. I am tempted to get closer to them,but this thought makes me uncomfortable since I do not know whatwould be their reaction. After gathering courage, I move closer andthe smell coming from their direction tells that they are smokingweed and cigarettes. From the look on their faces, it is like theyare waiting for something or someone. You never know what is going tohappen next. There are a lot of gang activities here. From far, I canspot another group with the same red clothing and it is like they arearguing over a deal.

Majorityof people around here are homeless especially in Skid Row. The peoplelying on the streets and the smelly trash scattered everywhere on theground speaks it all. The people occupying these neighborhoods arepoor. Occupants from these neighborhoods not only tend to avoid thoseareas with abandoned buildings, but also those that have ganggraffiti. From the look of things around here it is like the Bloodsgang use graffiti on walls to mark their territories.

Ina snap of a finger, violence erupts from the other group. I have tobe keen on what has rendered to this fight. Member Y shouts, “Guys,crabs!” This is a slang term used by the Bloods to identify theirrival Crips. I can spot a group of youth brushing against the Bloodsmembers and from their blue clothing I can see they are from anothergang. All manner of fighting is used. No one cares if death willhappen. The fighting tactics they are using are dangerous. “Killthem”, this is a voice from one of the members. One Bloods’member is hit with a beer bottle on the arm and from the look ofthings, the arm has been broken. This has led to intense battle. TheBloods are now dragging the rival gang to the ground where they jumpon and kick their heads and bodies. From nowhere, other gang membersemerge and join in the fight. No mercy is given or expected. Othersare praising the ones who are fighting. All manner of weapons areused. It is now twenty minutes since the violence started, but apolice siren can be heard from far. The sounds of the siren scatterthe gangs and the war is over. From my observations, it seems thatbeing a member of a specific street has more advantages thandisadvantages for those who live here.


Byuse of thematic analysis to the data I collected, key concepts,themes, and trends emerged from the observations. Gibbs (2008)suggests that thematic coding and categorizing is the best method ofanalyzing field observations. I used analytical codes to categorizethemes that gave an understanding of all observations in regard toall participants and their involvement in gang violence. This wasachieved through rereading field notes severally. I came up withcategories labeled substanceuse,physicalaggressiveness,and poorneighborhoods,violentneighborhoods,and territorialdisputes.The interpretation from these themes gives a good understanding ofrisk factors that can lead to gang violence.


Thistheme is described by almost all participants from the Bloods smokingcigarettes, weed and other hard drugs. When an individual becomes amember of a certain group, he or she is initiated to various types ofhard drugs that can affect his or her attitude, mood, or evencapability to make the right decisions. Therefore, engaging inviolent and general offenses becomes a norm to that person.


Thistheme describes how gang violence can be triggered by individuals whotend to have a personality or behaviors that cause harm to otherpeople. This may include use of weapons, kicking, or even hitting(Woodand Alleyne, 2010).Most of the participants tend to be physically aggressive from thelook of how they fought with their rival gangs.


Underthis theme, the gang members engage in violent activities to protecttheir space. Bingenheimer and Brennan (2005) suggest that the violentactivities may range from physical fights to use of firearms, to evenkilling one another. The Crips who wear blue attires are not allowedin the Bloods turf. That is why they fought to protect what they sayis theirs.

Violentand Poor Neighborhoods

Thehomelessness and trash all over these neighborhoods shows that notonly are families here have low or no income or occupation, but alsothe gang delinquency is perpetrated by the violent atmospherecharacterized by gang activities in most street corners.


Fromthe above observations and analysis, it is evident that gang violencehas been on the rise due to increased risk factors. However, most ofthe information I collected on gang behavior and membershipconcentrate more on male gangsters than on female gangsters. Irealized a gap in knowledge and came up with a research question “dothe female gangs engage in the same violent behavior as their malecounterparts?” The purpose of this study is to examine thevariation in behavior of Bloods’ males versus females (Bloodlettes)when engaging in gang violence. Many studies that have been conductedon gang violence fail to account for the role and violent behavior offemale gangs in the American gang scene. Most research on gangviolence only shows that gang violence is male dominated. Today, thishas changed since female presence in street gangs violence isincreasing.

KeyvariablesIndependentvariable- Gender differences

Dependentvariable- Gang violence


Genderdifferences refer to as differences between men and women in Bloodsstreet gang

GangViolence refers to as the act of a group of individuals breaking thelaw by engaging in criminal activities.


Malesfrom Bloods will more likely engage in violence than females(Bloodlettes)

Womenwill use more lenient gang violence tactics than men


Iobserved a group of over thirty youths who were situated in a streetcorner in Compton. But for this study, my aim was to study females.As usual, they were wearing red attires and the walls in this streetwere painted with red graffiti. It was in the evening and thetemperatures were not high. In this study, the girl A and B wereinvolved in a robbery where they snatched some valuable jewelry and awatch from an unsuspecting visitor. I was shocked to see thempointing a gun to the victim. I did not expect such an act from thoseyoung girls. The visitor tried to scream but there was no one tooffer help since people from these neighborhoods avoid these streetcorners. The victim was a white lady and the perpetrators were youngblack females. During this study process, another thing happenedwhere drugs were exchanged between the female gang members and to mydisbelief, two of them look pregnant. On the farthest corner of thatstreet I could see another group of females wearing red color rags,sport khakis, and red converse. They seemed to be in an argument withseveral males from another turf who seemed to buy something fromthem. One of the girls removed something from her pocket and sprayedit on her enemy. The guy screamed loudly to a point of attracting theattention of other gang members and war started yet again. The Bloodsand the other gang members used knives and gangs to fight while thegirls used baseball bats or anything that their hands could reach onto fight their enemies. The situation seemed to be a set up.


Majorityof the participants are male but few female gang gangs also exist.According to the National Gang Center (n.d.), 1.76 percent of allstreet gangs in the US were dominated by females in 1998. . Anotherstudy that was conducted by Jody Miller in 2001 shows that majorityof women are now involved in gang related activities. According toJones,Roper, Stys, and Wilson (2007),there are various ways under which females engage in gangs such asforming sister gangs that are auxiliary to gangs dominated by men,joining mixed sex gangs, or forming gangs that are dominated by afemale member.

Evenif there are few female gangs, female gang members have some rolesthey play in gangs that are male dominated such as being used asobjects of sex that is why few of them looked pregnant. There areother times when they are used as crime accomplices. I clarified theuse of females as crime accomplices as I observed female Bloodsselling drugs to other males and giving the money to the leader ofthe gang who is male. Therefore, female gangs are not as many as malegangs, and female gang members are more likely to participate in drugand violent crimes. According to a youth survey that was conducted byMoore and Hagedorn, the rate of delinquency in female gang members islower than that of male gang members.


Althoughfemale gang violence is often ignored in literature, it exists inalmost all societies. The strain theory explains why women engage ingangs, which definitely lead them to violent activities. Althoughthis theory does not specify female gang violence, it can be used toexplain delinquency in women. According to this theory, the means tofulfill socio and economic factors lead to gang membership orviolence (Joneset al., 2007).From this, women from poor and violent neighborhoods tend to engagein gang violence to fulfill their lifetime goals since there are nolegitimate means to fulfill their economic and social situation. Theyseek to use illegitimate ways like gang violence to achieve andcompensate for their economic and social condition. Anothersociological explanation as to why female gangs are increasing isthat today many women want to be equal to men. Forming and dominatingin gangs thus becomes a way of seeking gender equality (Jones et al.,2007). The female gang members engaging in drug trade show that theyare in need of money to either sustain themselves or their children.


Thefindings from this study support that female gangs are not as many asmale gangs but the female gangs are increasing every day. Also, therole of poor and violent neighborhoods and other risk factors inreinforcing female gang membership has been seen to be the same asthat of men. Moreover, although traditional studies show that femalegangs’ rates of delinquency are lower than those of males suchconclusions are changing today with women engaging in more or lesssimilar violent activities as men. Therefore, it is important forresearchers to not ignore female gangs since their numbers areincreasing, and such a step would lead to more effective preventiveand intervention strategies for both men and women in gangs.

Differencebetween inductive and deductive observation

Thefirst study involved inductive approach to research where I startedby observing male street gangs. I realized some patterns that showedvarious factors contributing to gang violence. The findings from thisstudy shows that poor neighborhoods, violent neighborhoods, physicalaggression, and territorial disputes lead to and violence. This studyled to a knowledge gap of variation between female and male gangviolence, which I later studied in the second field study. Ideveloped a hypothesis to test these findings. I conducted a studywhere observations were later compared with the predicted behavior.The findings led to a more generalized strain theory that explainsthat both male and female gang members aim at achieving middle classdesires and since they are from low social and economicneighborhoods, the means to achieve these aspirations does not exist.Therefore, they opt to engage in gang activities to fulfill thesegoals.

Ithink both deductive and inductive approaches to research aselaborated above are equally important when conducting a field study.Both give important knowledge about a specific phenomenon. Oneapproach informs the other approach.


Bingenheimer,J. B., Brennan, R. T., &amp Earls, F. J. (2005). Firearm violenceexposure and serious violent behavior. Science,308, 1323-1326.

Gibbs,G. R., (2008). AnalyzingQualitative Data.London: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

NationalGang Center, (n.d.). NationalYouth Gang Survey Analysis.Retrieved from

Wood,J., &amp Alleyne, E. (2010). Street gang theory and research: Whereare we now and where do we go from here? Aggressionand violent behavior,15, 100-111.

Jones,D., Roper, V., Stys, Y., &amp Wilson, C. (2007). Street gangs: Areview of Theory, Interventions, and Implications for corrections.Research BranchCorrectional Service of Canada. Retrievedfrom