Does Peer Pressure Influence Young People to Break the Law?

Parents often worry about the people their children are spending time with. They may warn them that peer pressure can cause them to make poor decisions, for instance, or even try to limit time with certain friends. But is there any truth to this? What role does peer pressure actually play?

Not a primary reason

This is a bit of a tricky subject. On one hand, links have been made. Teenagers do want to fit in with their peers, and they may break the law to do it.

One example is underage drinking. A teen spending time by themselves at home may have no desire to go out and illegally buy alcohol for their own consumption. A teen at a party where everyone else is drinking, on the other hand, may accept a drink from a friend so that they’re not forced to turn the offer down in front of everyone else. The setting is influencing them to drink more than the act of drinking itself.

At the same time, though, studies have found that peer pressure is rarely the primary reason for criminal activity. There are other factors to consider, and peer pressure is just one of many.

A teen may want a recent video game, for instance, but have no way to get it. They may consider stealing it from a local store. Maybe they don’t go through with it, but they tell a friend that they wish they owned it. If the friend then pressures them to take that next step and steal it, the teen may do so, even though they refrained on their own. They just needed that extra bit of peer pressure to get them to do what they wanted to do anyway.

A long future

What teenagers and their parents need to remember is that they have a long future ahead of them. A criminal conviction can drastically impact that future. This is why everyone involved must understand exactly what legal steps they can take.