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Group Violence and Migration Experience among Latin American Youths in Justice Enforcement Centers (Madrid, Spain)

  • José Manuel Martínez García (a1) and María Jesús Martín López (a1)


Group violence among Latin American immigrant youth has led to ongoing debates in political, legal, and media circles, yet none of those many perspectives has arrived at a solid, empirically supported definition for the phenomenon. This study aims to explore the relationship between the immigrant experience and violent group behavior in youths from Latin America serving prison sentences in Justice Enforcement Centers in the Community of Madrid. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 juveniles, and content analysis was applied to the resulting transcripts, employing Grounded Theory to create an axial codification of intra- and inter-categorical contents, and Delphi panels for quality control. The research team delved into 62 topics, addressing participants’ perceptions of the immigrant experience and its effects on five socialization settings (neighborhood, school, family, peer group, and significant other), and each one’s relationship to violent behavior. The results led us to believe the young people’s immigration experiences had been systematically examined. Their personal and social development was influenced by negative socioeconomic conditions, ineffective parental supervision, maladjustment and conflict at school, and experiences of marginalization and xenophobia. All those conditions favored affiliation with violent groups that provided them instrumental (economic and material), expressive, or affective support.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to José Manuel Martínez. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). E-mail:


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