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Is peer pressure going to lead to teen crime?

Parents who get a call saying that their child has gotten arrested often express shock and surprise. For an outsider, it's easy enough to wonder how the parents possibly could have been in the dark regarding this behavior or these tendencies. For parents, though, the reality is that outside pressure can massively influence the way teens act, and they really may not see this in their daily life. It can happen at school, at work, during after-school activities or when children go out in the community with their friends.

Peer pressure can and does lead to criminal action. Teens desperately want to fit in. They want to impress their peers. They want to prove themselves. When others pressure them to do illegal activities -- shoplifting, theft, using illegal drugs, etc. -- they often do things they never would have done on their own.

Brain development

Parents may say that they feel like the teenager who committed the crime doesn't sound like the teen that they know so well. And that may really be the case. In one study, carried out at Temple University, researchers determined that brain development could change because of peer pressure. The areas of the brain that center on rewards and risks change when teens face outside pressure. In short, they may actually be more prone to criminal activity and other dangerous decisions with friends as opposed to with their parents or when they are by themselves.

Implicit and explicit

Another thing to consider is that both implicit peer pressure and explicit peer pressure could play a role. One comes directly from outside sources -- friends and schoolmates -- while the other comes from the child's own internalized view of the world.

One common way to explain it is to consider a child whose parents choose their clothes, leading them to dress differently than the other students at school. If the child sees that they look different and feels like they stand out, they may ask their parents for new clothes as a result of this internalized, implicit peer pressure. If other students actively make fun of the student for what they wear, they may come to the same result -- asking for new clothes -- because of explicit pressure.

The same is true for criminal behavior. If a teenager spends time around other children who drink or use illegal drugs, for instance, he or she may start using as well. This could happen because the teen sees this behavior and decides they want to look like their friends or it could happen because their friends actively tell them to join in and ridicule them for refraining.

Criminal defense options

When these types of pressure lead to questionable choices, they can impact the rest of a child's life. That's why it's so important for the child and his or her parents to know what legal defense options they have in Texas.

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